The tree species Xylocarpus granatum is commonly described as occurring in the upper intertidal zone of mangrove forests, but mature trees are occasionally found at lower elevations. In the Utwe River basin, on the Pacific island of Kosrae, we investigated the relative importance of several biotic and abiotic factors that may control the intertidal distribution of X. granatum. Factors we evaluated included differential seed predation across the lower, mid, and upper intertidal zones and seedling responses to salinity, tidal flooding, and shade. Seed predation was 22.4% over the first 34 days and varied little among zones or in gaps versus under the forest canopy. By day 161, there were still no differences in seed mortality, but a significant difference was found in seedling establishment, with much greater establishment in the upper intertidal plots. X. granatum seedlings in a greenhouse experiment exhibited greater growth in freshwater than seedlings in 23 ppt salinity, which is typical of salinity levels found in the mid intertidal zone in our field study sites in Micronesia, where mature X. granatum trees are generally absent. Seedlings grown in 23 ppt salinity, however, exhibited few visible signs of stress associated with patterns in growth. Seedlings grown in a simulated tidal flooding treatment (with 23 ppt salinity) also showed few signs of stress. Growth declined dramatically under 80% shade cloths, but there were few interactions of shading with either 23 ppt salinity or simulated tidal flooding. Differential seed predation is not likely to be the primary factor responsible for the intertidal distribution of X. granatum on Kosrae. However, seedling tolerance of flooding or salinity may be more important, especially relative to a potential contribution to secondary stress mortality. Other factors may ultimately prove to be more critical, such as physiological effects of salinity on seed germination, effects of tides on seed dispersal and rooting, or differential herbivory on seedlings.
Additional publication details
Factors limiting the intertidal distribution of the mangrove species Xylocarpus granatum