Ecosystem Processes: Tropical Ecosystems
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Tropical Ecosystems |
Sierra Nevada Ecosystems
Forested Wetlands on Pacific Islands
We conduct research on basic ecological processes in mangrove forests and freshwater swamps. Efforts are underway to incorporate the process of adaptive management into sustainable natural resource management in developing countries.
Research is based primarily on the island of Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia, where mangrove forests (shown in green on the right) account for 15% of the land area. Freshwater swamps just inland from the mangroves probably account for another 15%. Approximately 8,000 people live on this 100-km2 island, primarily on the coastal plain behind the mangroves.
Major Areas of Research
Patterns of species distribution are being examined throughout the Indo-Pacific region for Rhizophora, a common genus of mangrove trees. A collaborator (left) at the University of Queensland is describing morphological variability and genetic relationships among these species.
Both hydrologic flows and stable isotope patterns are analyzed to clarify relationships among coastal wetlands, especially mangrove forests and freshwater swamps. For instance, groundwater flows through the levee on the right affect both the freshwater swamp and the mangrove forest.
Studies of basic characteristics of wetlands include long-term monitoring and focussed analyses of ecological processes. For instance, intensive studies of soil environmental characteristics in different parts of a mangrove forest help explain differences in tree growth rates determined from tree band data (right),
Consideration of socioeconomic factors provides an essential context for determining research priorities. Economic valuations indicate that mangroves and freshwater swamps provide the equivalent of approximately 60% of median household income in Kosrae. Mangrove crabs (left) are an important forest product that are both consumed locally and sold in an export market.
Introducing the concept of adaptive management to Kosraeans may provide an alternative to expensive, top-down regulation of natural resource use. A group of influential citizens (right) is considering a proposal for using this technique to reguluate the harvest of mangrove crabs in individual estuaries.
Continual outreach and extension activities bring research results into classrooms and households through the Pacific islands. Micronesian natural resource managers and educators are essential and integral partners in these activities (left).
Research conducted by: