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Mangroves are trees or shrubs that grow in salty water in hot places like the tropics. Mangroves make a special saltwater woodland or shrubland habitat, called a mangrove swamp, mangrove forest, mangrove or mangal. Mangroves grow on 1/3 of tropical shores. They are also found in sub-tropical Africa, Asia, and the southwest Pacific. Their twisted, tangled roots collect dirt, which often become islands.
Mangroves live right in the sea. Their seeds fall from the tree and will grow roots as soon as they touch any kind of soil. During low tide, they may fall in soil rather than water and start growing where they fell. If the water level is high, though, they can be carried far away from where they fell. Mangrove trees are often the beginning of what will one day be a small island. As dirt and other things collect in their roots, little bodies of land are formed – just the right place for other island vegetation to grow. This is an example of seed dispersal by water.
Sometimes, mangrove trees grow on a coral reef and keep them healthy. Smaller roots with air passages and breathing pores (holes) move oxygen from the air to parts of the plant underwater. Mangrove roots give clear water to the coral by trapping dirt and clean water by filtering land runoff and removing pollutants. The tree also protects the shoreline (and, through this, the coral reefs) from being eroded by storm waves. Mangrove thickets are a good place for many coral-reef fish, shrimp, and crabs to grow.
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