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Tropical mangrove forests are disappearing at an alarming rate, despite their importance in sustaining livelihoods for many people living along some of the world's most populous coastlines. Mangrove forests occupy a crucial place between land and sea, being a valuable ecological and economic resource. These ecosystems are nursery grounds and breeding sites for organisms and a source of wood, traditional foods and medicines. They are accumulation sites for sediment, contaminants, carbon and nutrients, offering protection against coastal erosion.
An overview is presented of mangrove forest ecosystems; how they live and grow at the edge of tropical seas and play a critical role along most of the world's tropical coasts, including their future in a world of climate change. Such an approach is necessary in order to further understand the role of these dynamic forests in ecosystem function, and as a first step towards developing adequate strategies for their conservation and sustainable use and management.