Regional processes in mangrove ecosystems: spatial scaling relationships, biomass, and turnover rates following catastrophic disturbance
Physiological processes and local-scale structural dynamics of mangroves are relatively well studied. Regional-scale processes, however, are not as well understood. Here we provide long-term data on trends in structure and forest turnover at a large scale, following hurricane damage in mangrove ecosystems of South Florida, U.S.A. Twelve mangrove vegetation plots were monitored at periodic intervals, between October 1992 and March 2005. Mangrove forests of this region are defined by a −1.5 scaling relationship between mean stem diameter and stem density, mirroring self-thinning theory for mono-specific stands. This relationship is reflected in tree size frequency scaling exponents which, through time, have exhibited trends toward a community average that is indicative of full spatial resource utilization. These trends, together with an asymptotic standing biomass accumulation, indicate that coastal mangrove ecosystems do adhere to size-structured organizing principles as described for upland tree communities. Regenerative dynamics are different between areas inside and outside of the primary wind-path of Hurricane Andrew which occurred in 1992. Forest dynamic turnover rates, however, are steady through time. This suggests that ecological, more-so than structural factors, control forest productivity. In agreement, the relative mean rate of biomass growth exhibits an inverse relationship with the seasonal range of porewater salinities. The ecosystem average in forest scaling relationships may provide a useful investigative tool of mangrove community biomass relationships, as well as offer a robust indicator of general ecosystem health for use in mangrove forest ecosystem management and restoration.
Keywordsdisturbance hurricane mangrove mortality recruitment scale structure turnover
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