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If there is a last line of defense against climate change, it may well lie in the mangrove trees that cling to coastlines throughout the tropics.

Locked in the mud of these unique tidal forests is thousands of years’ worth of accumulated carbon. Clear the mangroves — as humanity has been doing ever faster in recent years — and that carbon is slowly released into the atmosphere,
where it accelerates global warming.

Fast-growing and incomparably capable of storing carbon in their soils, mangroves thrive in salty waters, where their hearty root systems form a barrier against erosion and provide a haven for wildlife. Communities that live among healthy mangroves benefit
immeasurably from the upsides that mangroves provide — from acting as buffers against waves and storms to providing a nursery for fish, crab and clam species that are crucial parts of coastal diets and livelihoods.

Yet in the battle to prevent the worst effects of climate change, this last line of defense is thinning.

Barely half of the world’s original mangroves remain, most of them having been cleared…

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