Get access

Zonation Patterns of Belizean Offshore Mangrove Forests 41 Years After a Catastrophic Hurricane


  • Received 18 March 2005; revision accepted 1 August 2005.

Corresponding author; e-mail:


Mangroves are prone to bearing frequently the full brunt of hurricanes and tropical storms. The extent of destruction and early regeneration are widely studied. The purpose of this study was to add a long-term view of mangrove regeneration and assess the potential effects on mangrove horizontal zonation patterns of catastrophic destruction. Hattie, a category five hurricane, hit the Belizean coast in 1961. It passed directly over the Turneffe Atoll where our study area, Calabash Cay, is located. At four sites on this island, we analyzed mangrove forest structure along transects parallel to the shoreline within zones delineated by species dominance and tree height. We propose an index based on the Simpson index of diversity to express changes in the heterogeneity of the species dominance. Physical–chemical parameters and nutrient availability were also measured. The destruction levels were estimated by analysis of the distribution of diameter at breast heights of the bigger trees in the inland zones. Variations in species dominance among sites and zones could be explained by interactions of various factors. Further, different levels of destruction between the two sides of the island had a significant effect on current patterns of species and structural zonation at Calabash. We conclude that disturbance regime in general should be considered as a factor potentially influencing mangrove horizontal zonation patterns.