TAMPA (WFLA) – Native to Florida’s wetlands, mangrove forests are not only aesthetically pleasing, they’re also integral to the health of our ecosystems.

They act as nurseries for hundreds of threatened marine creatures and they buffer our coastline from storm surge. Importantly for Florida, they trap and store nutrients in their roots, helping lessen algae blooms.

But perhaps their most surprising global contribution is to climate change. Pound for pound mangroves store five times the carbon of tropical rainforests and 10 times that of traditional forests. Right now, they store the carbon equivalent of burning 2 trillion gallons of gas.

However, over the centuries, the Earth has lost about two-thirds of its mangroves – due mostly to humans – from activities like farming, aquaculture and urbanization.

Locally, Tampa Bay has lost 44% of it’s coastal wetlands, made up up salt marshes and mangroves, in the past 100 years.

But there is some good news. In the 20th century mangroves were disappearing at the rate of 2 percent per year. But more recently, due to successful conservation, that rate has dropped to a half of a percent.

The bottom line: mangroves are a vital weapon in the fight to save our planet and planting more mangroves is a solution that most can agree on.