There is one element of the forest ecosystem that is very accessible, but until recently hardly noticed. These are the humble mangrove swamps.

Mangrove trees are not very pretty and grow in ill smelling places, so they can be easily passed by in favoUr of more ‘aesthetic’ trees. But ecologists see these trees as primadonnas due to their ability to grow right at the shoreline, where both fresh and salt water mix. By growing exactly at this area, the colonies of mangrove trees help stabilise the shoreline. This helps to reduce erosion and also provide a habitat for a variety of species. They also have beautiful flowers which, when fertilised, grow into long torpedo shaped fruit. This fruit actually begins to germinate and grows roots while still connected to the tree. Eventually it drops into the mud where it either joins the pile of other dried up seed pods, or takes hold in the mud and begins life as a new tree.

These mangrove seedlings grow obediently in straight rows at a mangrove research centre south of Negara, in western Bali. Even at this early stage in their development their root architecture is easily visible. As these trees mature, these roots will develop into a thick tangle of arching roots, like a tangle of limbs. Some trees look like they could stand up and just walk away.