Much of the Honduran coastline, both Pacific and Caribbean, was once fronted by marshy tidal wetlands supporting extensive mangrove swamps. While cultivation and ranching have wiped out much of the former wetlands, several sizable mangrove areas remain. An unusual tree able to withstand high levels of salt, the mangrove thrives at the boundary between land and sea, where no other tree species can live. Most common close to the ocean are red mangroves, while farther inland, on drier ground, black and white mangroves predominate.
Rather than having their root structure buried in dirt, as most trees do, the mangroves appear to be standing on tippy-toes in the water, supported by a network of roots. Amidst these root networks is a safe, nutrient-rich nursery of sorts for many fish and shellfish species. The mangroves are important in protecting many low-lying coastal areas from the worst ocean storms, and they also help filter sediment out of river runoff, thus actually helping to build new land. The mangrove swamp, along with the coastal tropical forest often behind it, provides a home to troops of monkeys, sea and land birds, manatees, and crocodiles.
Due to expanding fruit cultivation and ranching on the Caribbean coast, and shrimp-farming on the Pacific, many of Honduras’s mangroves have been wiped out. Patches remain in the protected areas of Punta Sal, Punta Izopo, Cuero y Salado, Laguna Guaymoreto, and the Bahía de Chismuyo in the Golfo de Fonseca. But by far the largest reserve of mangroves still largely unmodified by humans in the country is along the coastline of the Mosquitia, in far northeastern Honduras.
© Chris Humphrey and Amy E. Robertson from Moon Honduras, 5th Edition