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The Mangrove Trees who grow in estuaries are some of our best air cleaners! Like lungs, they breathe in the carbon dioxide from the air, trap the carbon deep in their muddy soil, and then breathe out fresh oxygen again.

The Mangroves also stand in water that rises and falls as the tides come in and out like rhythmic breathing too. Being wet so often means that Mangroves grow in thick, wet mud. To help get air down into the mud, Mangroves have snorkel-like breathing roots called pneumataphores that poke up above the ground.

In and out goes the air travelling through the wood of the Mangroves as they breathe. Up and down go the tides that soak the Mangrove Trees and their soil. This lesson about breathing, giving and receiving goes into every part of the wood of the trees and influences how they grow.

Grey Mangrove trees that are perfect for making Boomerangs
Grey Mangrove trees that are perfect for making Boomerangs. Image: Sara Judge
© Sara Judge

First Nations peoples have listened to Mangroves for a long time. We hear the lessons being told in their wood by noticing the ways that their branches grow.

Mangroves grow elbow-like bends in their branches that are perfectly shaped to make returning Boomerangs. These amazing tools are full of the voices and lessons of the Mangrove wood. When a Boomerang is thrown, it reminds us of the fresh air given when Mangroves breathe out. When the Boomerang comes back to us, it reminds us of the important job the Mangroves do by trapping carbon every time they breathe in.

Mangroves and Boomerangs teach us to give as often as we receive.

Think about how often you give and how often you receive – are they equal? What are some ways that you could give to others as much as you receive for yourself?

returning boomerang made from Grey Mangrove wood by Raymond Timbrey and on display in Burra
Returning boomerang made from Grey Mangrove wood by Raymond Timbrey and on display in Burra. Image: Abram Powell
© Raymond Timbrey

Editorial note: Some plant names have been capitalised to give agency to Country by First Nations writers. Find out more about why we capitalise English language in reading Who is Country.

About the author

Sara Kianga Judge is a neurodiverse Walbanja-Yuin woman who grew up on Burramattagal Country. She is an environmental scientist, geographer and artist passionate about accessible science communication and helping people to grow meaningful relationships with Country.