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Framework for facilitating mangrove recovery after hurricanes on Caribbean islands

February 11, 2023

Mangrove ecosystems in the Caribbean are frequently exposed to hurricanes, leading to structural and regenerative change that elicit calls for recovery action. For those mangroves unaffected by human modifications, recovery can occur naturally. Indeed, observable natural recovery after hurricanes is the genesis of the “disturbance adaptation” classification for mangroves; while structural legacies exist, unaltered stands often regenerate and persist. However, among the >7,000 islands, islets, and cays that make up the Caribbean archipelago, coastal alterations to support development affect mechanisms for regeneration, sediment distribution, tidal water conveyance, and intertidal mangrove transgression, imposing sometimes insurmountable barriers to natural post-hurricane recovery. We use a case study approach to suggest that actions to facilitate recovery of mangroves on Caribbean islands (and similar settings globally) may be more effective when focusing on ameliorating pre-existing anthropogenic stressors. Actions to clean debris, collect mangrove propagules, and plant seedlings are noble endeavors, but can be costly and fall short of achieving recovery goals in isolation without careful consideration of pre-hurricane stress. We update a procedural framework that considers six steps to implementing “Ecological Mangrove Restoration” (EMR), and we apply them specifically to hurricane recovery. If followed, EMR may expedite actions by suggesting immediate damage assessment focused on hydrogeomorphic mangrove type, hydrology, and previous anthropogenic (or natural) influence. Application of EMR may help to improve mangrove recovery success following catastrophic storms, and reduce guesswork, delays, and monetary inefficiencies.

Publication Year 2023
Title Framework for facilitating mangrove recovery after hurricanes on Caribbean islands
DOI 10.1111/rec.13885
Authors Ken Krauss, Kevin R.T. Whelan, John Paul Kennedy, Daniel A. Friess, Caroline Rogers, Heather A. Stewart, Kristin Wilson Grimes, Camilo A. Trench, Danielle E. Ogurcak, Catherine A. Toline, Lianne C. Ball, Andrew From
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Restoration Ecology
Index ID 70243039
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center