MEPS 356:175-188 (2008)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07228

Digital terrain modelling to investigate the effects of sea level rise on mangrove propagule establishment

D. Di Nitto1,2, F. Dahdouh-Guebas1,3,*, J. G. Kairo4, H. Decleir2,5, N. Koedam1

1Biocomplexity Research Focus c/o Laboratory of Plant Biology and Nature Management, Mangrove Management Group, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
2Laboratory of Cartography and Geographic Information Systems, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
3Département de Biologie des Organismes, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)—Campus du Solbosch, CP 169, Avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt 50, 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium
4Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, PO Box 81651, Mombasa, Kenya
5Laboratory of Physical Geography, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: We studied the vegetation structure dynamics of mangroves, in order to contribute to an overall view on the conditions of propagule establishment from the moment they detach from the parental tree. Microtopographical measurements, quantitative data on vegetation, and propagule counts were collected in Gazi Bay (Kenya) and utilized in a ‘geographical information systems’ (GIS) environment where all modelling took place based on digital terrain modelling (DTM). Suitability maps were created for propagules of Rhizophora mucronata and Ceriops tagal to analyse the dispersal possibilities (through stranding or self-planting) for the present situation, and for cases of degradation and sea level change. The GIS-analyses take into account the available information derived from the field data, but alterations that go hand in hand with degradation and/or sea level changes (e.g. erosion patterns, rates of sediment supply, wave action) were not considered, since our main focus was the behaviour of propagules. We found that the study area has the potential to successfully rejuvenate at present; however, increasing anthropogenic pressure may have severe consequences on propagule dispersal within this mangrove stand, mainly through the loss of aerial root masses, as these were shown to provide stranding areas for propagules. A relatively modest rise in sea level within a time span of 20 yr could affect the distribution pattern and the specific proportion of the juvenile vegetation layer, leading to notable floristic modifications from a regional point of view.


KEY WORDS: Mangrove · Propagule dispersal · Topography · GIS · DTM · Roots · Kenya · Gazi Bay


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Cite this article as: Di Nitto D, Dahdouh-Guebas F, Kairo JG, Decleir H, Koedam N (2008) Digital terrain modelling to investigate the effects of sea level rise on mangrove propagule establishment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 356:175-188

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