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Landscape characteristics of Rhizophora mangle forests and propagule deposition in coastal environments of Florida (USA)

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Field dispersal studies are seldom conducted at regional scales even though reliable information on mid-range dispersal distance is essential for models of colonization. The purpose of this study was to examine the potential distance of dispersal of Rhizophora mangle propagules by comparing deposition density with landscape characteristics of mangrove forests. Propagule density was estimated at various distances to mangrove sources (R. mangle) on beaches in southwestern Florida in both high-and low-energy environments, either facing open gulf waters vs. sheltered, respectively. Remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems were used to identify source forests and to determine their landscape characteristics (forest size and distance to deposition area) for the regression analyses. Our results indicated that increasing density of propagules stranded on beaches was related negatively to the distance of the deposition sites from the nearest stands of R. mangle and that deposition was greatly diminished 2 km or more from the source. Measures of fragmentation such as the area of the R. mangle forests were related to propagule deposition but only in low-energy environments. Our results suggest that geographic models involving the colonization of coastal mangrove systems should include dispersal dynamics at mid-range scales, i.e., for our purposes here, beyond the local scale of the forest and up to 5 km distant. Studies of mangrove propagule deposition at various spatial scales are key to understanding regeneration limitations in natural gaps and restoration areas. Therefore, our study of mid-range propagule dispersal has broad application to plant ecology, restoration, and modeling.

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