Mangrove forests typically show a wide range of productivity, depending on factors such as hydrological regimes, nutrient supply, etc., and are considered to be vital sources of organic matter for estuarine systems. An average of 2 to 3 g dry weight of leaf litter is produced by mature mangrove forests each day (Odum et al. 1982). This litter, consisting of twigs, leaves, bark, fruit and flowers, is broken down by bacteria and consumed by a wide variety of fauna inhabiting mangrove ecosystems. Litter fall occurs throughout the year in Florida, peaking at the beginning of the summer wet season and after periods of stress (Heald 1969, Pool et al. 1975, Twilley et al. 1986).Competitors: In addition to propagule dispersal, Ball (1980) suggested that competition among the three mangrove species may be partially responsible for the zonation observed in many mangrove areas. White mangroves thrive throughout intertidal areas in the absence of large numbers of red and black mangroves. However, white mangroves appear to dominate in higher areas because of some competitive advantage over red mangroves. Direct consumers of mangrove propagules in Florida include the mangrove root crab (Goniopsis cruentata), the swamp ghost crab (Ucides cordatus), the coffee bean snail (Melampus coffeus) and the ladder hornsnail (Cerithidea scalariformis). Consumers of mangrove leaves include G. cruentata, the mangrove tree crab (Aratus pisonii), the blue land crab (Cardisoma guanhumi) and various types of insects.
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