Field observations of seedlings and saplings of Avicennia marina showed patterns that correlated with salinity, light and sediment. Models that account for these observations were subsequently tested in a series of field experiments. Establishment varied within an estuary under controlled conditions but was not related to salinity or sediment type. Seedling survival was uniform over 3 years regardless of position in estuary and sediment type. Seedling densities and survival under canopies or in canopy gaps were not significantly different. However, seedling growth and density of saplings were greater in canopy gaps. Experiments involving manipulations of canopies showed no differences in seedling survival under canopies or in light gaps, but addition of slow-release fertilizer enhanced growth and survival in canopy gaps and under canopies. Long-term comparison of areas denuded of a canopy and with sediment disturbance showed enhanced establishment and survival when compared with areas with canopy gaps but with undisturbed sediments. Overall there appears to be no restriction to establishment of propagules within mangrove stands other than the supply of propagules and tidal or wave action. In contrast, recruitment to the sapling stage appears to be restricted by light and sediment resources. We suggest that propagules need to establish in a regeneration niche for seedling recruitment to the sapling stage. This differs from the view that seedlings in the under-storey are analogous to a seed pool in the soil.
Population ecology Regeneration niche Mangroves Field experiments Avicennia marina