Density-dependent shift from facilitation to competition in a dwarf Avicennia germinans forest

Abstract

The global effort to rehabilitate and restore destroyed mangrove forests is unable to keep up with the high mangrove deforestation rates, which exceed the average pace of global deforestation. Although facilitation theory presents new possibilities for the restoration of heavily degraded mangrove sites, knowledge of tree–tree interactions in stressed mangrove forest ecosystems is too limited to utilize facilitation appropriately. The aim was to determine the mode of local interaction among stressed mangrove trees by investigating the effect of clustering on tree size and crown morphology under contrasting stand densities. The study was conducted in a dwarf Avicennia germinans forest in Northern Brazil, in which tree growth is limited by infrequent inundation and high pore-water salinity. Autoregressive regression, Voronoi tessellation and spatial point pattern statistics were used to address the spatial processes underlying tree interaction. Under low stand density (1.2 trees m−2) dwarf trees which grew in clustered cohorts of A. germinans had a less stunted crown morphology revealing the dominance of a positive neighborhood influence among plants. In contrast, dwarf trees in the denser forest stand (2.7 trees m−2) were interacting competitively as indicated by the more negative effect of neighbors on crown morphology and size. The shift from facilitative to competitive interactions is an important feature of mangrove forest regeneration under harsh environmental conditions. If mangrove trees are unable to regenerate naturally on severely degraded sites, intraspecific facilitation could be used to assist regeneration by planting seedlings in clusters and not evenly spaced.

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Funding

The fieldwork was funded by the European Commission in the framework of the Coastal Research Network on Environmental Changes (CREC), which was part of its 7th Framework Program (Marie Curie Action FP7-PEOPLE-2009-IRSES; EU IRSES # 247514).

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Correspondence to Aor Pranchai.

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Pranchai, A., Jenke, M., Vogt, J. et al. Density-dependent shift from facilitation to competition in a dwarf Avicennia germinans forest. Wetlands Ecol Manage 26, 139–150 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11273-017-9561-z

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Keywords

  • Mangroves
  • Crown morphology
  • Intraspecific facilitation
  • Brazil
  • Pair-correlation function
  • Spatial Durbin model