Faunal impact on vegetation structure and ecosystem function in mangrove forests: A review

Aquatic Botany
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Abstract

The last 20 years witnessed a real paradigm shift concerning the impact of biotic factors on ecosystem functions as well as on vegetation structure of mangrove forests. Before this small scientific revolution took place, structural aspects of mangrove forests were viewed to be the result of abiotic processes acting from the bottom-up, while, at ecosystem level, the outwelling hypothesis stated that mangroves primary production was removed via tidal action and carried to adjacent nearshore ecosystems where it fuelled detrital based food-webs. The sesarmid crabs were the first macrofaunal taxon to be considered a main actor in mangrove structuring processes, thanks to a number of studies carried out in the Indo-Pacific forests in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Following these classical papers, a number of studies on Sesarmidae feeding and burrowing ecology were carried out, which leave no doubts about the great importance of these herbivorous crabs in structuring and functioning Old world ecosystems. Although Sesarmidae are still considered very important in shaping mangrove structure and functioning, recent literature emphasizes the significance of other invertebrates. The Ocypodidae have now been shown to have the same role as Sesarmidae in terms of retention of forest products and organic matter processing in New world mangroves. In both New and Old world mangroves, crabs process large amounts of algal primary production, contribute consistently to retention of mangrove production and as ecosystem engineers, change particle size distribution and enhance soil aeration. Our understanding of the strong impact of gastropods, by means of high intake rates of mangrove products and differential consumption of propagules, has changed only recently. The role of insects must also be stressed. It is now clear that older techniques used to assess herbivory rates by insects strongly underestimate their impact, both in case of leaf eating and wood boring species and that herbivorous insects can potentially play a strong role in many aspects of mangrove ecology. Moreover, researchers only recently realized that ant–plant interactions may form an important contribution to our understanding of insect–plant dynamics in these habitats. Ants seem to be able to relieve mangroves from important herbivores such as many insects and sesarmid crabs. It thus seems likely that ants have positive effects on mangrove performance.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Faunal impact on vegetation structure and ecosystem function in mangrove forests: A review
Series title Aquatic Botany
DOI 10.1016/j.aquabot.2008.01.009
Volume 89
Issue 2
Year Published 2008
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Southeast Ecological Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 186
Last page 200
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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