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Biocomplexity in mangrove ecosystems

January 15, 2010

Mangroves are an ecological assemblage of trees and shrubs adapted to grow in intertidal environments along tropical coasts. Despite repeated demonstration of their economic and societal value, more than 50% of the world's mangroves have been destroyed, 35% in the past two decades to aquaculture and coastal development, altered hydrology, sea-level rise, and nutrient overenrichment. Variations in the structure and function of mangrove ecosystems have generally been described solely on the basis of a hierarchical classification of the physical characteristics of the intertidal environment, including climate, geomorphology, topography, and hydrology. Here, we use the concept of emergent properties at multiple levels within a hierarchical framework to review how the interplay between specialized adaptations and extreme trait plasticity that characterizes mangroves and intertidal environments gives rise to the biocomplexity that distinguishes mangrove ecosystems. The traits that allow mangroves to tolerate variable salinity, flooding, and nutrient availability influence ecosystem processes and ultimately the services they provide. We conclude that an integrated research strategy using emergent properties in empirical and theoretical studies provides a holistic approach for understanding and managing mangrove ecosystems.

Publication Year 2010
Title Biocomplexity in mangrove ecosystems
DOI 10.1146/annurev.marine.010908.163809
Authors Ilka C. Feller, Catherine E. Lovelock, U. Berger, Karen L. McKee, Samantha B. Joye, M.C. Ball
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Annual Review of Marine Science
Index ID 70203120
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wetlands Research Center