, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 1059-1074

Spatial variations in macrobenthic fauna recolonisation in a tropical mangrove bay

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Abstract

Recolonisation by crab species and sediment-infauna taxa (at class level) in artificially regenerated mangrove stands of Avicennia marina, Rhizophora mucronata and Sonneratia alba (5 yr old) were studied using respective bare sites (open without mangroves or denuded) and natural sites (relatively undisturbed) as controls. The controls were chosen based on site history, physical proximity and tidal inundation class in reference to the particular reforested mangrove stand and samples randomly taken. A number of environmental variables were measured; interstitial water salinity and temperature (measured at low tide) were lower, whereas sediment organic matter content was higher in the areas with mangrove cover, with the natural sites having the highest content. The bare sites were generally sandier, whereas the areas with mangrove cover had higher proportions of clay and silt. Generally, there was a higher crab density in the reforested sites than in the bare sites, whereas crab species diversity (Shannon diversity index) did not vary from one site to another for any of the mangrove species. In terms of crab species composition, the reforested sites were more similar (Sørensen similarity coefficient) to the natural sites and less to the bare controls. For sediment-infauna, the reforested sites had a significantly higher density than the respective bare controls, while the natural sites had the highest density. The number of sediment-infauna taxa in both the reforested and natural sites of all the mangrove species was similar and higher than in the comparable bare sites. The results suggest that the reforested sites are supporting more faunal recolonisation, and therefore becoming more akin to the natural mangrove sites in terms of the investigated functional indicators. The findings seem to support the use of artificial mangrove regeneration (in areas where natural regeneration has been impeded by physical conditions or otherwise) as an effective management tool in the restoration and conservation of the functional integrity of degraded mangrove habitats.

Key words: Crabs, Environmental variables, Kenya, Recolonisation, Restored mangroves, Sediment-infauna