Macroecological patterns of forest structure and allometric scaling in mangrove forests

Andre S. Rovai, Robert R. Twilley, Edward Castañeda-Moya, Stephen R. Midway, Daniel A. Friess, Carl C. Trettin, Jacob J. Bukoski, Atticus E.L. Stovall, Paulo R. Pagliosa, Alessandra L. Fonseca, Richard A. Mackenzie, Aslan Aslan, Sigit D. Sasmito, Mériadec Sillanpää, Thomas G. Cole, Joko Purbopuspito, Matthew W. Warren, Daniel Murdiyarso, Wolfram Mofu, Sahadev SharmaPham Hong Tinh, Pablo Riul

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Aim: Mangrove wetlands span broad geographical gradients, resulting in functionally diverse tree communities. We asked whether latitudinal variation, allometric scaling relationships and species composition influence mangrove forest structure and biomass allocation across biogeographical regions and distinct coastal morphologies. 

    Location: Global. Time period: Present. Major taxa studied: Mangrove ecosystems. 

    Methods: We built the largest field-based dataset on mangrove forest structure and biomass to date (c. 2,800 plots from 67 countries) to address macroecological questions pertaining to structural and functional diversity of mangroves spanning biogeographical and coastal morphology gradients. We used frequentist inference statistics and machine learning models to determine environmental drivers that control biomass allocation within and across mangrove communities globally. 

    Results: Allometric scaling relationships and forest structural complexity were consistent across biogeographical and coastal morphology gradients, suggesting that mangrove biomass is controlled by regional forcings rather than by latitude or species composition. For instance, nearly 40% of the global variation in biomass was explained by regional climate and hydroperiod, revealing nonlinear thresholds that control biomass accumulation across broad geographical gradients. Furthermore, we found that ecosystem-level carbon stocks (average 401 ± 48 MgC/ha, covering biomass and the top 1 m of soil) varied little across diverse coastal morphologies, reflecting regional bottom-up geomorphic controls that shape global patterns in mangrove biomass apportioning. 

    Main conclusions: Our findings reconcile views of wetland and terrestrial forest macroecology. Similarities in stand structural complexity and cross-site size–density relationships across multiscale environmental gradients show that resource allocation in mangrove ecosystems is independent of tree size and invariant to species composition or latitude. Mangroves follow a universal fractal-based scaling relationship that describes biomass allocation for several other terrestrial tree-dominated communities. Understanding how mangroves adhere to these universal allometric rules can improve our ability to account for biomass apportioning and carbon stocks in response to broad geographical gradients.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1000-1013
    Number of pages14
    JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - May 2021


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