, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 204-218

Variability of mangrove ecosystems along the Brazilian coast

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Brazilian mangroves extend from 4°30′N to 28°30′S, varying greatly in growth form, species distribution patterns, and stand structure, in spite of a limited floristic diversity. We divided the Brazilian coastline into eight units, within which physiographic and climatic conditions are relatively uniform, and described mangrove occurrence, species distribution and structural attributes characteristic of each segment. In general, greates mangrove coverage and greatest forest stature are found in areas with a large surplus of rainfall over potential evapotranspiration and macrotidal regimes. An exception was the segment containing the mouth of the Amazon river, where freshwater systems dominate over brackish or marine associations. We believe that the variability in species associations and the dominance of each in a given environment is predominantly determined by the characteristics of the landforms that can be colonized by each species in a given region. The type, size, and frequency of occurrence of available landforms is a function of the particular mix of fluvial, tidal, and wave energies found in a region. Different species colonize these sites depending on their adaptations and edaphic preferences. Climate affects mangrove colonization and growth. We suggest that Brazilian mangroves play a minor role in modifying the geomorphic setting; the spatial arrangement of the various forest types is a response to the underlying topography and edaphic conditions, and to the constraints imposed by climatic and hydrologic factors. The spatial arrangement of species does not necessarily show successional processes, but may be the result of direct and differential colonization on appropriate substrates.