Gap formation and forest regeneration in a Micronesian mangrove forest
Gaps created by the death of one or more contiguous trees are common in mangrove forests but are poorly understood. In Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia, where mangrove wood is harvested for local use, most natural gaps were < 50 m2, whereas most logging gaps were > 100 m2. Interior zones, where access is facilitated by roads, were the most heavily exploited. Although the forests contained 11 species, two species were primarily responsible for gap formation. Natural gaps were caused mainly by broken stems and large branches of Sonneratia alba trees, whereas logging gaps were created primarily by harvesting Rhizophora apiculata trees. Most natural gaps were formed by the fall of more than one tree or branch. Seedling densities were higher in logging gaps than in natural gaps and higher in gaps than under intact canopy. Bruguiera gymnorrhiza was the most common seedling species in gaps and under intact canopy. Relative rates of growth in height were faster in gaps than under intact canopy for R. apiculata and B. gymnorrhiza seedlings. Current harvesting practices on the island do not seem to be altering species richness, although R. apiculata may become less common as gaps are increasingly captured by B. gymnorrhiza.(Accepted January 27 2002)
Key Words: Bruguiera gymnorrhiza; firewood harvesting; Kosrae; Rhizophora apiculata; Sonneratia alba.
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p1 Current address: Fundacion Natura, Apartado 2190, Panama 1, Republic of Panama