II. HABITAT AND
Rhizophora mangle occurs
worldwide in coastal and estuarine areas of the tropics and subtropics to about
28° in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
In the Indian River Lagoon, red mangroves are common landscape features to
approximately 28° North, around the vicinity of Merritt Island. North of this
location is the transition zone where mangrove forests gradually give way to
salt marshes. Frost stress north of the transition zone prevents red mangroves
from becoming established.
III. LIFE HISTORY AND POPULATION BIOLOGY
Age, Size, Lifespan:
Little is known regarding typical age to maturation in mangroves in south
Florida, though it has been hypothesized that maturation age for mangroves in
Florida is in some way linked to the periodicity of hurricanes.
Red mangroves are generally the dominant species of mangrove at or
immediately adjacent to the water line, though they may often occur with black
mangroves and white mangroves.
Propagules of the red mangrove detach from the parent tree upon ripening and may
float in salt water for approximately one year without rooting.
Rhizophora mangle flowers are thought to be self pollinated or wind
pollinated. Following fertilization, mangrove propagules undergo continuous
development from flower to germinated seedling while still attached to the
parent plant, with no dormant or seed phase, thus exhibiting vivipary. The
seedlings, or propagules, eventually fall from the parent plant and are able, in
the absence of suitable substrata, to float for extended periods (over a year)
in salt water without rooting.
IV. PHYSICAL TOLERANCES
The geographic range of R. mangle generally matches the 20 °C
isotherm in both the northern and southern hemispheres, and is similar to the
range of coral reefs. Frost stress beyond 28° north and south latitudes
prevents red mangroves from becoming well established. However, when subjected
to cold stress, populations of red mangroves show differences in survival rate
and amount of damage done per plant based on their geographic points of origin.
As facultative halophytes, mangroves have the ability to thrive in
waterlogged soils which may have salinities ranging from 0 - 90 ppt.
Mangroves exhibit several different types of mechanisms for coping with highly
saline conditions. Rhizophora mangle excludes the salt in seawater at the
root-substratum interface. The black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and
the white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa) are able to take up seawater
through their roots, but they excrete excess salt through pores, or salt glands, located on the surface of leaves.
Other Physical Tolerances:
Mangroves can experience reducing conditions to at least -200 mV. One of the
most visibly obvious adaptations to anoxia are root adaptations. R. mangle
utilizes prop roots which grow downwards from the stem of the plant, rather than
relying on roots growing upwards from the substrate. Lenticels, or pores, in the
aerial roots are presumed to be the path through which oxygen is supplied to the
underground root system. Fine lateral rootlets are able to accumulate in the
substratum, and produce most of the underlying peat on which mangrove swamps are
Adaptations to extremes in pH have not been
examined in the red mangrove, however, pH values between 5.3 and 7.8 have been
V. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY
Mangrove forests typically show a wide range of productivity, depending on
factors such as hydrological regimes, nutrient supply, etc., and are considered
to be vital sources of organic matter for estuarine systems.
Ball (1980) suggested that competition among the 3 mangrove species may be
partially responsible for the zonation observed in many mangrove areas. Direct
consumers of mangrove propagules in Florida include the spotted mangrove crab (Goniosis
cruentata), the mangrove land crab (Ucides cordatus), the coffee bean
snail (Malampus coffeus) and the ladder horn snail (Cerithidea
scalariformis). Consumers of mangrove leaves include the mangrove crab (Aratus
pisonii), the spotted mangrove crab (G. cruentata), the blue land
crab (Cardisoma guanhumi), and various types of insects. Wood boring
isopods feed upon and damage prop roots.
Red mangrove propagules may float for upwards of a year without taking root.
They generally take root upon coming to rest on a suitable substrate area
consisting of sand, silt, mud or clay which offers some protection from waves.
Propagules may root even while completely submerged; and mature trees, depending
on type, tend not to be sensitive to hydroperiod; they may remain submerged
anywhere from several hours to nearly permanently without showing adverse
Mangroves form intertidal forests in which red mangrove prop roots, black
mangrove pneumatophores, and their associated peat banks serve as the dominant
intertidal substrata for other members of the mangrove community. Black
mangroves (Avicennia germinans) and white mangroves (Laguncularia
racemosa) are usually found in association with red mangroves. Segregation of the 3 species does occur, however; with red mangroves typically occupying the lowest intertidal position. Black and white mangroves occur at slightly higher tidal elevations.
VI. SPECIAL STATUS
Benefit in the IRL:
Mangrove forest ecosystems are vital as sources of energy and provide
nursery habitat for juvenile fish, and invertebrates. They also provide roosting
and nesting habitat for wading birds. Additionally, they are a source for timber
production and are important as buffers in decreasing storm impacts along
Because of their vital role in providing nursery habitat for
juvenile fish, many of which are commercially or recreationally important,
mangroves contribute to the continuing success of Florida's tourism and fishing
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Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 52(UML
Report by: K. Hill,
Smithsonian Marine Station
with thanks to G. Raulerson, LSU
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