Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 102, Issue 2, pp 417–427 | Cite as

Mapping forty years of mangrove cover trends and their implications for flats fisheries in Ciénaga de Zapata, Cuba

  • Jordan R. CissellEmail author
  • Michael K. Steinberg


The mangrove forests of Ciénaga de Zapata, Cuba, support populations of bonefish (Albula vulpes), tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), permit (Trachinotus falcatus), and common snook (Centropomus undecimalis) that play key roles in the local sport fishing industry. Despite their importance, no published work has documented changes in these mangroves’ extent throughout the past four decades. This project used unsupervised classification of Landsat imagery to quantify areal changes in Zapata’s mangrove forests from 1974 to 2017. Results demonstrated a 6.48% decrease in mangrove area over the course of the entire study period. However, rates of mangrove change were not uniformly distributed. The most substantial decrease in mangrove extent occurred when Hurricane Michelle struck Zapata in November 2001, reducing mangrove area by 5.56%. Between 2002 and 2014, Zapata’s mangrove extent increased by 5.03%, demonstrating the resilience of the peninsula’s mangrove forest to hurricane disturbance. Results suggest that Zapata’s national park designation has largely protected its mangroves from anthropogenic destruction, and that hurricane disturbance has been a more substantial driver of change in this important coastal ecosystem. The resilience of Zapata’s mangroves to natural hurricane disturbance and their minimal exposure to anthropogenic disturbance offer encouraging evidence for the continued conservation of Zapata’s flats fisheries.


Cuba Mangrove Remote sensing Hurricane Biodiversity 



The authors wish to acknowledge the support of the American Geographical Society and the University of Alabama Department of Geography and College of Art and Sciences. The authors also thank Reynaldo Estrada for his guidance and correspondence throughout the project.

Supplementary material

10641_2018_809_MOESM1_ESM.png (2.2 mb)
Suppl. Fig. A American flamingoes (Phoenicopterus ruber) wintering in Ciénaga de Zapata (PNG 2.20 mb)
10641_2018_809_MOESM2_ESM.png (18.2 mb)
Suppl. Fig. B Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) jumping in a cenote in Ciénaga de Zapata (PNG 18.2 mb)
10641_2018_809_MOESM3_ESM.png (114.7 mb)
Suppl. Fig. C Typical mangrove-lined canal in Ciénaga de Zapata, dominated by red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) (PNG 114 mb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyThe University of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA

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