J Plant Ecol ›› 2012, Vol. 5 ›› Issue (2): 157-166.doi: 10.1093/jpe/rtr050

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Invaders' control on post-disturbance succession in coastal mangroves

Shekhar R. Biswas1, Md. Saiful Islam Khan2,3 and Azim U. Mallik4,*   

  1. 1 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, 3359 Mississauga Road, Mississauga, Ontario L5L 1C6, Canada; 2 United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), Cambridge CB3 0DL, UK; 3 Forest and Landscape, LIFE, Copenhagen University, 1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark; 4 Department of Biology, Lakehead University, 955 Oliver Road, Thunder Bay, Ontario P7B 5E1, Canada
  • Received:2011-10-12 Accepted:2011-12-26 Online:2012-02-03 Published:2012-04-12
  • Contact: Mallik, Azim E-mail:amallik@lakeheadu.ca

Abstract: Aims In recent years, coastal mangroves have been frequently affected by large disturbances (cyclones, hurricanes, flooding and tsunamis) and post-disturbance vegetation is often dominated by small stature mangrove, mangrove-associate and non-mangrove species potentially affecting ecosystem functioning. Knowledge on the processes of mangrove vegetation development and recovery (succession) following normal and large disturbances will benefit practitioners in designing robust ecosystem management/restoration plans. Here we propose a conceptual model of disturbance-mediated succession in mangroves.
Methods Based on field observations and species' life history traits, we develop conceptual models of mangrove succession under normal disturbance regime and recently experienced increased frequency of large disturbances. We evaluate our conceptual models by conducting a scenario testing experiment.
Important findings We suggest two predominant processes affecting mangrove succession after disturbance: propagule limitation due to damage of seed producing mature trees and dispersal barrier resulting from biological invasion associated with large disturbance. We argue that large disturbances affect mature trees more than the small-stature non-tree (shrubs, herbs and climbers) species creating a larger propagule shortage for mangrove tree species than non-tree species. Secondly, large disturbances facilitate invasion of free-floating aquatics, which may interfere with the flow-facilitated propagule dispersal and seedling establishment of mangrove species. In a scenario testing experiment, we have shown that similar levels of disturbance impact vegetation development and recovery differently depending on the presence or absence of invasive species. We conclude that since biological invasion is one of the major drivers of post-disturbance mangrove succession, the dimension of biological invasion should be included in prediction, management and restoration of mangrove forests.

Key words: biological invasion, cryptic ecological degradation, dispersal barrier, large disturbances, mangrove restoration, mangrove succession

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