The habitat function of mangroves for terrestrial and marine fauna: A review
MetadataShow full item record
Mangroves are defined by the presence of trees that mainly occur in the intertidal zone, between land and sea, in the (sub) tropics. The intertidal zone is characterised by highly variable environmental factors, such as temperature, sedimentation and tidal currents. The aerial roots of mangroves partly stabilise this environment and provide a substratum on which many species of plants and animals live. Above the water, the mangrove trees and canopy provide important habitat for a wide range of species. These include birds, insects, mammals and reptiles. Below the water, the mangrove roots are overgrown by epibionts such as tunicates, sponges, algae, and bivalves. The soft substratum in the mangroves forms habitat for various infaunal and epifaunal species, while the space between roots provides shelter and food for motile fauna such as prawns, crabs and fishes. Mangrove litter is transformed into detritus, which partly supports the mangrove food web. Plankton, epiphytic algae and microphytobenthos also form an important basis for the mangrove food web. Due to the high abundance of food and shelter, and low predation pressure, mangroves form an ideal habitat for a variety of animal species, during part or all of their life cycles. As such, mangroves may function as nursery habitats for (commercially important) crab, prawn and fish species, and support offshore fish populations and fisheries. Evidence for linkages between mangroves and offshore habitats by animal migrations is still scarce, but highly needed for management and conservation purposes. Here, we firstly reviewed the habitat function of mangroves by common taxa of terrestrial and marine animals. Secondly, we reviewed the literature with regard to the degree of interlinkage between mangroves and adjacent habitats, a research area which has received increasing attention in the last decade. Finally, we reviewed current insights into the degree to which mangrove litter fuels the mangrove food web, since this has been the subject of longstanding debate.