The mangrove in Martinique is a separate ecosystem. Its vegetation consists solely of trees acclimatized to a salty environment whose purpose is to prevent the erosion of the coastline and also to protect the corals and grassbeds from the deposition of sediments.
It is spread over an area of around 1,800 hectares and accounts for about 6% of the island’s total forest surface. It is mainly situated in the centre of the island (at Robert, François, in the Baie des Anglais, on the Presqu’ile de la Caravelle) and in the south (Cul-de-sac le Marin, le Daimant). The biggest mangrove is to be found in the Baie de Génipa, at the bottom of the Baie de Fort-de-France (almost 1,000 hectares).
This peculiar fortest is mainly situated in bays sheltered from the wind and in estuaries behind coral reefs. Despite its limited surface area, the mangrove plays an important role in the preservation of the environment. Situated on the edge of the coast, this very peculiar forest plays host to many species of animals. Its role is to retain sediments so that the nearby grassy seabeds and the coral reefs further out at sea can develop in perfect harmony.
The trees which make up this “cushion” forest are quite special. They have stilt-like roots which allow them to keep a foothold in the unstable soil, which is mainly composed of mud with a high sulphur content. The environment is a difficult one for plants and trees, as it is salty and is low in dioxygen. Part of the mangrove forest is flooded. Only five species can survive such conditions. The species which grow closest to the sea in a clayey soil are the Red, Black, and White mangroves. Grey mangroves are to be found further inland, where the soil is a mixture of sand and clay, and further in again, the Great Golden Fern can be seen. Medal mangroves grow on the Trinité site, an area flooded by freshwater.
Although the Martinique mangrove is a partially protected species, its surface area has been reduced by human exploitation in recent years. The biggest damage was done when the Fort-de-France port and the Lamertin aeroport were built. Damage has also been caused by the construction of waterfront tourist resorts.