Mangroves

The link between the land and the sea Mangrove systems illustrate many dimensions of the diversity- function relationship. At the landscape level these systems represent a crucial link between the land and the sea. On the one hand, they protect the land from erosion induced by storms, and on the other they provide the foundation, in terms of nurseries, for many fisheries that lie off the coast. The amount of destruction of mangrove forests is staggering in many parts of the world, and represents severe losses of the multiple services that these systems provide. The mangrove systems provide a particularly good test system for refining our knowledge of the relationship of ecosystem functioning and biodiversity. Along the cast coasts of Australia, for example, mangrove forests exist with over 30 dominant species. Going eastward, along the islands of the South Pacific, mangrove plant diversity declines progressively until only one species is found in Samoa. This striking gradient is apparently driven by dispersal distance from the mainland. The climate does not vary much along this tropical longitudinal gradient. We do not yet know how system functioning responds to this loss of diversity, or if the diversity of other components of the ecosystem scale in the same manner as the dominant plants. These systems provide abundant material for examining the role that particular keystone organisms play in regulating decomposition. In many regions, crabs apparently play a central role in the initial shredding of litter, whereas in other regions gastropods play this role.

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