Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 8, pp 2509–2522 | Cite as

Are mangroves in the tropical Atlantic ripe for invasion? Exotic mangrove trees in the forests of South Florida

  • James W. Fourqurean
  • Thomas J. SmithIII
  • Jennifer Possley
  • Timothy M. Collins
  • David Lee
  • Sandra Namoff
Original Paper


Two species of mangrove trees of Indo-Pacific origin have naturalized in tropical Atlantic mangrove forests in South Florida after they were planted and nurtured in botanic gardens. Two Bruguiera gymnorrhiza trees that were planted in the intertidal zone in 1940 have given rise to a population of at least 86 trees growing interspersed with native mangrove species Rhizophora mangle, Avicennia germinans and Laguncularia racemosa along 100 m of shoreline; the population is expanding at a rate of 5.6% year−1. Molecular genetic analyses confirm very low genetic diversity, as expected from a population founded by two individuals. The maximum number of alleles at any locus was three, and we measured reduced heterozygosity compared to native-range populations. Lumnitzera racemosa was introduced multiple times during the 1960s and 1970s, it has spread rapidly into a forest composed of native R. mangle, A. germinans, Laguncularia racemosa and Conocarpus erectus and now occupies 60,500 m2 of mangrove forest with stem densities of 24,735 ha−1. We estimate the population growth rate of Lumnitzera racemosa to be between 17 and 23% year−1. Populations of both species of naturalized mangroves are dominated by young individuals. Given the long life and water-dispersed nature of propagules of the two exotic species, it is likely that they have spread beyond our survey area. We argue that the species-depauperate nature of tropical Atlantic mangrove forests and close taxonomic relatives in the more species-rich Indo-Pacific region result in the susceptibility of tropical Atlantic mangrove forests to invasion by Indo-Pacific mangrove species.


Botanic gardens Bruguiera Lumnitzera Forest structure Population genetics 



David T. Jones and the staff at the Kampong of the National Tropical Botanic Garden provided unfettered access to their grounds and helped to document the history of the introduction of B. gymnorrhiza there. Our work would not have been possible without their full cooperation and assistance. We thank Mary Collins for help in obtaining information on non-native mangrove species at FTBG, and a cooperative agreement between FTBG and Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management, Environmentally Endangered Lands Program. This study was partially supported by research funds of FTBG allocated to the Plant Molecular Systematics and Conservation Genetics lab jointly operated by FTBG and FIU. The help of K. Balentine, D. Broeksteeg, J. Eells, M. Eygenraam, H. de Groot, F. Scheibler and G. Tiling during field sampling is gratefully acknowledged. This manuscript was improved by the input of four anonymous reviewers. T. J. Smith received financial support from the Terrestrial, Freshwater and Marine Ecosystem Program of the US Geological Survey. This is contribution # 461 of the Southeast Environmental Research Center and contribution # 176 of the Tropical Biology Program at Florida International University. Mention of product and/or trade names does not imply endorsement on the part of the US Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • James W. Fourqurean
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Thomas J. SmithIII
    • 4
  • Jennifer Possley
    • 3
  • Timothy M. Collins
    • 1
    • 5
  • David Lee
    • 1
  • Sandra Namoff
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Marine Science Program and Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityNorth MiamiUSA
  3. 3.Center for Tropical Plant ConservationFairchild Tropical Botanic GardenMiamiUSA
  4. 4.Southeastern Ecological Science Center, United States Geological SurveySt. PetersburgUSA
  5. 5.Division of Environmental BiologyNational Science FoundationArlingtonUSA

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