Survival, growth, above ground biomass accumulation, soil surface elevation dynamics and nitrogen accumulation in accreted 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 1171 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 significantly among treatments. Rates of surface sediment accretion (means ± S.E.) were 13.0 (±1.3), 10.5 (±0.9), 8.4 (±0.3), 6.9 (±0.5) and 5.7 (±0.3) mm yr-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 (± S.E.) 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 yr-1 for 6.96, 3.26, 1.93, 0.95, and 0 seedlings m-2, respectively. All planted treatments appeared to accumulate greater nitrogen concentrations in the sediment compared to the unplanted control, and 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 study, 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 local land managers may be able to take advantage of plantation densities to help mitigate sea-level rise effects by encouraging positive soil surface elevation increment, and perhaps even greater nutrient retention to promote mangrove growth and ameliorate nearshore eutrophication in tropical island environments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics