Impact of landscape structure on propagule dispersal in mangrove forests

T. Van Der Stocken*, D. J.R. De Ryck, B. Vanschoenwinkel, E. Deboelpaep, T. J. Bouma, F. Dahdouh-Guebas, N. Koedam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although many riparian and semi-aquatic plant species disperse via water currents, little is known about how this process interacts with the landscape matrix. In mangroves, the dense aerial root network could act as a strong dispersal barrier for the morphologically diverse propagules found in these trees. In this study, we combined field and laboratory experiments to test the effect of root density, propagule morphology and hydrodynamic variables on retention rates and trajectories of the propagules of 4 common species. Overall, flume experiments showed that larger propagules were more frequently retained than smaller ones. For the larger propa gules, retention rates increased with increasing obstacle density in the landscape matrix. In elongated propagules, intraspecific variation was linked to floating orientation. Experimental wave action and increased water flow velocity reduced retention. Dispersal in the field was constrained by major tidal currents and experiments confirmed less retention of smaller propagules, which moved farther than larger ones. Overall, our results reveal that the pronounced morphological variation in mangrove propagules interacts with the landscape matrix, contributing to strong differences in dispersal capacity among species and morphotypes. These results may help to explain observed mangrove distribution patterns, including zonation at local, regional and global scales. Additionally, given that many mangrove biotopes are currently strongly threatened by human pressure and fragmentation, this information is important as an input variable for dispersal models that aim to predict dispersal patterns at multiple scales and species responses to environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-106
Number of pages12
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2015


  • Community structure
  • Flume tank
  • Hydrochory
  • Retention
  • Tidal system


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