Mangrove Forest Survey Underway

Healthy red mangrove tree with prop roots

Healthy red mangrove tree with prop roots

Geographic Consulting has partnered with several talented ecologists to conduct a mangrove forest survey and health assessment in select areas of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. The photos presented here are from our survey in Great Pond, St. Croix.

 

Mangrove forests are found along the much of the coastline of Caribbean islands, Florida and the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. In the US Virgin Island there are three primary species; white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa), black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle). These tree species are not related, and the word “mangrove” is a description of their ecology rather than a distinct plant family.

Field ecologists collect data on seedling/sapling density

Field ecologists collect data on seedling/sapling density

Mangrove trees thrive in salty, wet, coastal environments where other trees rarely survive. It is mangrove trees’ adaptations to manage salty water that sets them apart from other trees. Mangrove trees are dependent on tidal water and fresh water run off for their health. The trees also transform the environment where they grow. Mangrove trees stabilize coasts, trap eroded sediments and re-routes the path of water. Mangrove forests are famously productive transition areas and the preferred breeding ground for many fish and birds.

Mud flats with dead mangrove trees in the background

Mud flats with dead mangrove trees in the background

A spherical densiometer is used to measure forest canopy coverage in the mangrove forest

A spherical densiometer is used to measure forest canopy coverage in the mangrove forest

The purpose of this study is to document the presence, health and structure of existing mangrove forest stands. To this end, we are taking measurements along transects that run perpendicular to the coast in order to capture the diversity and complexity of the mangrove forest. We identify all plants to the species level and measure tree height, dbh, the number of stems in an area and the density of the forest canopy overhead. We also record the size class and density of the seedlings in the understory. Together, these metrics allow us to record the overall health of the mangrove forests measured and to describe them in a single moment in time.

 

Aaron Hutchins collects seedling data in the mangrove understory

Aaron Hutchins collects seedling data in the mangrove understory

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