Mangrove forests, native to Southeast Asia are found along shorelines and in rainforests, especially where the rainforests meet the ocean. They also grow on river deltas, in salty wetlands between land and sea, where other plants usually cannot grow.
They play an important role in the ecosystem by preventing the erosion of coastlines by collecting sediments from rivers and streams, and by slowing down the flow of the water.
Mangroves have a root system that make the plant look like it is on stilts. These special aerial roots keep the trunk and leaves above the water, protecting it from the ocean tides.
Its root system, namely the aerial and tap roots have an unique filter system to separate the salt out of the salty water they grow in. The tree also has a number of support roots that securely anchor the tree down, while other roots loop themselves upwards away from the salt water.
There are some types of mangrove trees that have a less elaborate root system, that does not anchor them into the earth. This is because they grow at higher elevations in drier soils.
The seeds of the mangrove plant are also well adapted to their salty environments. They are not damaged by seawater, and can float for long distances, or stay in the mud below the parent tree, before taking root. During the time of floating, they get the necessary nutrients (carbohydrates) that they will use later on to grow.
These plants have amazing physiological adaptations to the increased salt in their waters. The surface of the root has a filter system mentioned earlier, which allows water to be absorbed into the plant, while keeping the salt out. The red mangrove is an example of this type of plant.
Some mangrove varieties remove salt through little glands located on their leaves. Black and white mangroves are such plants.
These special adaptations, which have taken hundreds of years to evolve, allow this plant to grow and thrive in environments that other plants would not survive a day in.