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Keywords:

  • Bruguiera gymnorrhiza;
  • Butaritari Atoll;
  • coastal forests;
  • dendrometry;
  • ENSO;
  • Kiribati;
  • Kosrae;
  • Pohnpei;
  • rainfall dependence;
  • Sonneratia alba

ABSTRACT

Seasonal patterns of tree growth are often related to rainfall, temperature, and relative moisture regimes. We asked whether diameter growth of mangrove trees in Micronesia, where seasonal changes are minimal, is continuous throughout a year or conforms to an annual cycle. We installed dendrometer bands on Sonneratia alba and Bruguiera gymnorrhiza trees growing naturally within mangrove swamps on the islands of Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Pohnpei, FSM, and Butaritari, Republic of Kiribati, in the eastern Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean. Trees were remeasured monthly or quarterly for as long as 6 yr. Annual mean individual tree basal area increments ranged from 7.0 to 79.6 cm2/yr for all S. alba trees and from 4.8 to 27.4 cm2/yr for all B. gymnorrhiza trees from Micronesian high islands. Diameter increment for S. alba on Butaritari Atoll was lower at 7.8 cm2/yr for the one year measured. Growth rates differed significantly by hydrogeomorphic zone. Riverine and interior zones maintained up to seven times the annual diameter growth rate of fringe forests, though not on Pohnpei, where basal area increments for both S. alba and B. gymnorrhiza were approximately 1.5 times greater in the fringe zone than in the interior zone. Time-series modeling indicated that there were no consistent and statistically significant annual diameter growth patterns. Although rainfall has some seasonality in some years on Kosrae and Pohnpei and overall growth of mangroves was sometimes related positively to quarterly rainfall depths, seasonal diameter growth patterns were not distinctive. A reduced chance of moisture-related stress in high-rainfall, wetland environments may serve to buffer growth of Micronesian mangroves from climatic extremes.