Ecology of Mangrove Growth and Recovery in the Lesser Antilles: State of Knowledge and Basis for Restoration Projects


Address correspondence to D. Imbert.


Whereas the increasing knowledge on tropical coastal wetlands highlights the ecological and economical importance of such ecosystems, anthropogenic activities within the coastal zone have caused substantial, irreversible losses of mangrove areas in the Lesser Antilles during the last decades. Such a paradox gives strength to compensatory policy efforts toward mangrove restoration. We review the available knowledge on the ecology of mangrove growth and recovery in the Lesser Antilles as a contribution to possible restoration projects in such islands. Distribution of species follows a general pattern of seaward/landward zonation according to their respective tolerance to flooding and to pore-water salinity. An experimental study of seedling growth following simulated oil spill has documented the tolerance of Rhizophora mangle and Avicennia germinans seedlings to oil concentration in soils and the effects of natural biotic and abiotic factors on seedlings growth and survival. Monitoring mangrove recovery following hurricane Hugo has given information on growth patterns, from seedling to sapling stages, according to species and site conditions. Forest recovery was mostly due to pre-established seedlings. For the large Rhizophora propagules, buoyancy appears to be a quite inefficient way of dispersal far inland from the sea shore or riversides. Causes of recovery failure are discussed. From these results we attempt to answer the questions when, where, how to plant mangroves, and what species to use.