Ecologically, tropical mangrove swamp forests share many similarities with salt marshes to the north (although mangroves are woody and salt marshes are generally dominated by grasses and other herbaceous vegetation). Both mangrove swamps and salt marshes occur at the interface of land and sea, protect the coast from storm damage (especially hurricanes), and serve as important nurseries for fish and invertebrates. Mangrove leaves are an important source of energy for marine food webs: fallen leaves are colonized by bacteria, fungi, and protozoans, which are in turn fed upon by zooplankton, which in turn are consumed by juvenile fish and larval invertebrates. (Kricher 1988)
In southern Florida and the Caribbean, Black Mangrove forms dense thickets just inshore of Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) (Brockman 1968). In one of the best studied mangrove regions, the Caribbean, Rhizophora mangle typically grows in a pure stand at the seaward forest edge. About 10 to 20 m from the water's edge, Laguncularia racemosa (White Mangrove) joins the canopy, forming a nearly even mixture with Rhizophora in the low intertidal. Avicennia germinans enters the canopy in the mid-intertidal, creating a mixed canopy of the three species, and it then gradually monopolizes most upper intertidal stands. Laguncularia often reappears in the canopy near the upland edge, growing as scattered individuals or small monospecific stands along the mangrove– forest ecotone. Although at one time this spatial distribution of the different mangrove species was presumed to be attributable to spatial gradients in factors such as salinity, a variety of experimental and other data have indicated that differences among species in their tolerance of different environmental conditions is insufficient to explain the observed zonation. (Sousa et al. 2007 and references therein)
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