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Introduced mangroves along the coast of Moloka‘i, Hawai‘i may represent novel habitats for megafaunal communities

July 15, 2021

Mangrove forests are prevalent along tropical/subtropical coastlines and provide valuable ecosystem services including coastline stabilization, storm impact reduction, and enhanced coastal productivity. However, mangroves were absent from the Hawaiian Islands and their introduction to Moloka‘i in 1902 has provided an opportunity to examine their unique influence on coastal landscapes. Previous studies indicate an inability of native detritivores to utilize tannin-rich substrates, yielding poor cycling of mangrove-derived detritus in Hawaiian tidal zones. We hypothesize that in addition to altering detrital inputs, introduced mangroves facilitate the persistence of introduced species in the Hawaiian coastal zone by providing novel habitat for juvenile megafauna. To determine whether mangrove-dominated tidal zones harbor megafaunal assemblages distinct from open sandflats, we sampled in two mangrove (M1 and M2) and two adjacent sandflat (S1 and S2) sites along the southern coast of Moloka‘i, where the most mature mangrove forests occur in Hawai‘i. There were no statistical differences in total abundances between M1 and M2 or S1 and S2; therefore, results from individual deployments were pooled across the sites in order to conduct between-habitat (mangrove vs. sandflat) comparisons. Our mangrove study site had significantly higher abundances of megafauna, including several shrimp and crab species, compared to the sandflat site. The community composition within the mangrove site differed from the sandflat site, including higher abundances of non-native mangrove crabs (Scylla serrata), as well as native fish Bathygobius cocosensis and crustaceans (Thalamita crenata, Palaemon pacificus, P. debilis) than in the sandflat site, indicating that the mangrove site may provide niches for both invasive and native species. In addition, mean body length for several similar species was smaller in the mangrove site than in the sandflat site, suggesting that these mangroves may be providing a habitat for juvenile species. While our study was spatially limited to two mangrove and two adjacent sandflat sites, our results suggest that introduced mangroves in Moloka‘i may support small-bodied, native, and non-native megafauna, influencing coastal Hawaiian trophic dynamics. Our case study provides a baseline for megafaunal fish and invertebrate communities present prior to non-native mangrove removal as well as for monitoring potential community changes following expansion of mangrove habitats due to climate change.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Introduced mangroves along the coast of Moloka‘i, Hawai‘i may represent novel habitats for megafaunal communities
DOI
Authors Bryan A. Nakahara, Amanda Demopoulos, Yoshimi M. Rii, Rosanna A. Alegado, Kauaoa M.S. Fraiola, Craig R. Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Pacific Science
Series Number
Index ID 70229411
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center