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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 302:293-305 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps302293

Nature and consequences of biological connectivity in mangrove systems

Marcus Sheaves*

School of Marine Biology and Aquaculture, James Cook University, Townsville, 4815 Queensland, Australia

ABSTRACT: Mangroves are important nursery and feeding areas for fish. Their rich invertebrate faunas render them productive feeding areas, while their shallow waters and structural complexity provide sanctuary habitats at a variety of scales. However, in most parts of the world mangroves are available to fish for only part of the time because they are alternately inundated and exposed by the high-tide/low-tide cycle. As a result, few fish can use mangroves exclusively but must migrate in and out of the mangroves with the tide, occupying alternative habitats when mangroves are unavailable. These movements connect the mangroves and the alternative habitats to form an ‘interconnected habitat mosaic’. Living in a habitat mosaic puts limits on the patterns of life possible in mangrove systems, complicates trophic structures, and creates the need for tactics and strategies to meet the challenges imposed by movement among components of the mosaic. Moreover, this biological connectivity means that understandings of trophic relationships, life-history strategies, predation and mortality, and patterns of distribution and abundance must be set in a spatially and temporally variable context. Despite the obvious consequences and importance of biological connectivity in mangrove ecosystems, it has often not been given appropriate consideration in the development of theories and paradigms.

KEY WORDS: Biological connectivity · Mangrove · Estuary · Fish · Movement

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