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Ellison Abstract- 1993 Ellison and Farnsworth (Seedling)

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Ellison, A. M. & Elizabeth J. Farnsworth. 1993. Seedling survivorship, growth, and response to disturbance in Belizean mangal. American Journal of Botany 80: 1137-1145.


Species zonation patterns across tidal gradients in mangrove forests are formed by successful seedling establishment and maintained by replacement of adults by conspecific seedlings. These two processes rarely have been examined experimentally in neotropical mangal. We studied survivorship and growth of seedlings of two species of mangrove, Rhizophora mangle L. and Avicennia germinans (L.) Stearn, across a tidal gradient in Belize, Central America. Propagules of each species were planted in common gardens at tidal elevations corresponding to lowest low water (LLW), mean water (MW), and highest high water (HHW). Sixty-nine percent of Rhizophora seedlings planted at MW and 56% of those planted at LLW survived 1 year. Forty-seven percent of MW Avicennia seedlings also survived 1 year. No individuals of either species survived at HHW, and neither did any LLW Avicennia seedlings. Among the surviving Rhizophora seedlings, LLW seedlings grew more rapidly in terms of height, diameter, leaf production, and biomass than did MW seedlings. Insect herbivory was twice as high on MW seedlings as on LLW Rhizophora seedlings. We also examined the response of established Rhizophora seedlings to experimental removal of the adult Rhizophora canopy. Seedlings in canopy removal areas had higher survivorship, grew twice as fast, produced more leaves, and had less than half the herbivory of seedlings growing beneath an intact canopy. These results provide insights into underlying causes and maintenance of zonation in Caribbean mangrove forests.

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