Biodiversity

Mangrove ecosystems support a variety of marine and estuarine food webs involving an extraordinarily large number of animal species and complex heterotrophic microorganism food web. In the New World tropics, extensive surveys of the composition and ecology of mangrove nekton have found 26-114 species of fish. In addition to the marine and estuarine food webs and associated species, there are a relatively large number and variety of animals that range from terrestrial insects to birds that live in and/or feed directly on mangrove vegetation. These include sessile organisms (such as oysters and tunicates), arboreal feeders (such as foliovores and frugivores), and ground-level seed predators. Sponges, tunicates, and a variety of other forms of epibionts on prop roots of mangroves are highly diverse, especially along mangrove shorelines with little terrigenous input. Over 200 species of insects have been documented in mangroves in the Florida Keys, similar to the richness of insects and faunal biota observed in other parts of the Caribbean. One of the most published links between mangrove biodiversity and ecosystem function may be the presence of crabs in mangrove wetlands. Crabs can influence forest structure, litter dynamics, and nutrient cycling of mangrove wetlands, suggesting that they are a keystone guild in these forested ecosystems.

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