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High mangrove density enhances surface accretion, surface elevation change, and tree survival in coastal areas susceptible to sea-level rise

Kumara, M P; Jayatissa, Loku P; Krauss, Ken W; Phillips, D H; Huxham, Mark


M P Kumara

Loku P Jayatissa

Ken W Krauss

D H Phillips


Survival, growth, aboveground biomass accumulation, sediment surface elevation dynamics and nitrogen accumulation in sediments were studied in experimental treatments planted with four different densities (6.96, 3.26, 1.93 and 0.95 seedlings m−2) of the mangrove Rhizophora mucronata in Puttalam Lagoon, Sri Lanka. Measurements were taken over a period of 1,171 days and were compared with those from unplanted controls. Trees at the lowest density showed significantly reduced survival, whilst measures of individual tree growth did not differ among treatments. Rates of surface sediment accretion (means ± SE) were 13.0 (±1.3), 10.5 (±0.9), 8.4 (±0.3), 6.9 (±0.5) and 5.7 (±0.3) mm year−1 at planting densities of 6.96, 3.26, 1.93, 0.95, and 0 (unplanted control) seedlings m−2, respectively, showing highly significant differences among treatments. Mean (±SE) rates of surface elevation change were much lower than rates of accretion at 2.8 (±0.2), 1.6 (±0.1), 1.1 (±0.2), 0.6 (±0.2) and −0.3 (±0.1) mm year−1 for 6.96, 3.26, 1.93, 0.95, and 0 seedlings m−2, respectively. All planted treatments accumulated greater nitrogen concentrations in the sediment compared to the unplanted control. Sediment %N was significantly different among densities which suggests one potential causal mechanism for the facilitatory effects observed: high densities of plants potentially contribute to the accretion of greater amounts of nutrient rich sediment. While this potential process needs further research, this study demonstrated how higher densities of mangroves enhance rates of sediment accretion and surface elevation processes that may be crucial in mangrove ecosystem adaptation to sea-level rise. There was no evidence that increasing plant density evoked a trade-off with growth and survival of the planted trees. Rather, facilitatory effects enhanced survival at high densities, suggesting that managers may be able to take advantage of high plantation densities to help mitigate sea-level rise effects by encouraging positive sediment surface elevation.


Kumara, M. P., Jayatissa, L. P., Krauss, K. W., Phillips, D. H., & Huxham, M. (2010). High mangrove density enhances surface accretion, surface elevation change, and tree survival in coastal areas susceptible to sea-level rise. Oecologia, 164, 545-553.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2010
Deposit Date Apr 3, 2014
Print ISSN 0029-8549
Electronic ISSN 1432-1939
Publisher BMC
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 164
Pages 545-553
Keywords Mangroves; Sediment accretion; Tree density; Facilitation;
Sea-level rise; Sri Lanka;
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