Mangrove forests worldwide undergo anthropogenic fragmentation that may threaten their existence, and yet there have been few tests of the effects of fragmentation on demographic processes critical for mangrove regeneration. Predicting the effects of habitat fragmentation on mangroves is problematic as pollinators may move more freely across water than terrestrial habitat, and propagules can be widely dispersed by water. Here, within each of two estuaries, we compared pollinator diversity and activity, reproductive effort and output, and rates of recruitment for sets of three large ( > 1500 trees), medium (300-500) and small ( < 50) stands. As predicted, most measures of reproductive activity and success were inversely related to stand size with large stands typically producing significantly more and larger fruit, and significantly more seedlings. Most strikingly, we found the effect of fragmentation on the abundance of pollinators (honeybees), the production and quality of fruit and the survival rate of seedlings to be similar, showing significant reduction of recruitment in small stands. This study provides the first rigorous evidence that recruitment of mangroves, like for many terrestrial plants, is negatively impacted by habitat fragmentation. From a management perspective, we argue that in the short term our data imply the importance of conserving the largest possible stands. However, additional work is needed to determine (1) the proportion of recruits within small stands that originate within large stands, (2) how seedling performance varies with fruit size and genotype, and (3) how seedling size and performance vary with the abundance and diversity of pollen.
Available for download on Saturday, September 08, 2018