The importance of propagule establishment and physical factors in mangrove distributional patterns in a Costa Rican estuary

Aquatic Botany
By: , and 



Establishment of Laguncularia racemosa, Avicennia germinans, and A. bicolor was measured along intertidal gradients (mud bank (MB), lower intertidal (LI), and upper intertidal (UI)) on point bars and islands in a Costa Rican tropical estuary. Successful establishment showed the following order — Laguncularia: LI (73%)>MB (52%)>UI (18%), with UI significantly lower than LI and MB; Avicennia spp.: LI (66%)>UI (51%)>MB (29%), with LI significantly higher than MB. Establishment of Laguncularia in UI was significantly lower than Avicennia spp. due to selective crab herbivory. After 25 days, 52% of Laguncularia propagules were eaten compared to 5% for Avicennia spp. Total mortality of Laguncularia propagules and seedlings was significantly higher than that of Avicennia spp. in all three zones.

The hydrological regime affected propagule establishment under controlled mesocosm conditions. Four hydrological treatments included flooded according to tidal cycle (FT), no flooding (NF), continuous flooding (F), and flooded according to tidal cycle with propagules additionally buried (FTB). Laguncularia establishment under NF (93%) and F (84%) was significantly greater than under FT (63%). A. germinans establishment under NF (97%) was greater than under FT (69%). Laguncularia showed significantly higher establishment than A. germinans under F conditions. Laguncularia propagules sank soon after their radicles protruded (5–8 days), and subsequently established under water. A. germinans propagules floated during the 25-day experiment and never established. Propagule establishment under FTB was greater for Laguncularia than for Avicennia (11 and 1%, respectively). Height increase of established Laguncularia seedlings was significantly different among treatments: FT (5.2 mm per day)>NF (3.4 mm per day)>F (2.4 mm per day). Growth of established A. germinans seedlings did not differ between FT (4.8 mm per day) and NF (5.0 mm per day), but it was significantly higher than Laguncularia under NF.

These results show that both genera can successfully establish on the lower intertidal zone when artificially retained. However, propagule buoyancy, availability, dispersal, and the effect of water movement on propagule anchoring limit Avicennia spp. establishment in this regularly flooded environment. In the upper intertidal zone, however, differential predation on Laguncularia propagules favors Avicennia spp. establishment and dominance.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The importance of propagule establishment and physical factors in mangrove distributional patterns in a Costa Rican estuary
Series title Aquatic Botany
DOI 10.1016/S0304-3770(01)00188-7
Volume 71
Issue 3
Year Published 2001
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) National Wetlands Research Center, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 22 p.
First page 157
Last page 178
Country Costa Rica
Other Geospatial Bebedero River, Gulf of Nicoya, Tempisque River
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