August 30th, 2011

Give and Take: tale of a leaf

Galapagos: tale of a leaf

On the morning of 7 July we had a panga ride through a mangrove forest. The atmosphere was magical. In the background the sound of the sea and in the channel system a serene peace.

When peddling through the channels, you can sort of imagine how buccaneers and pirates went through these channels some hundred years ago. A number of animal species also use the peace of the mangrove-forest for security and for regaining strength: turtles, rays and numerous species of fish were spotted.

Our knowledgeable guide Juan pointed us to a particular feature of the mangrove trees: since they are completely submerged in the seawater they are designed and forced to deal with the salt water. The tree evolved to have a very efficient filter to get rid of the salt, as salt is not contributing to the growth of the tree: the mangrove tree is able to filter 99% of the salt out of the seawater.

The last percent needs to be dealt with too and the tree does this by sacrificing one leaf of each cluster of four. So what you’ll see is a green tree with lots of yellow leaves: the tree accumulates the salt from the filtered seawater in one leaf and will discard this leaf. The leaf will drop to the water, sinks to the bottom, ferments and rots away to then provide the necessary minerals for next generations of trees or other plants of the forest.

The image above portrayed this cycle of life quite nicely: the dying leaf, hanging above the water is about to be handed over to the sea, containing the last bits of salt, showing this remarkable relationship between tree and sea.

2 comments to Give and Take: tale of a leaf

  • James Fuller

    We didn’t hear this from the other panga so thanks for sharing. I think your image portrays this sacrifice perfectly. The leaf reflection is icing on the cake. Also, I enjoyed looking through your Galapagos gallery. You came away with some fantastic images.