Estuarine mangrove forests regulate and facilitate many ecological processes, and provide nursery ground for many commercially important species. However, mangroves grow in sediments with high carbon loading and high respiration rates which can potentially influencing the dissolved oxygen (DO) dynamics of tidal water flowing into mangrove forests, as bacteria strip DO from the incoming water to carry out metabolic functions. In turn this is likely to influence the way nekton and other aquatic organisms utilize mangrove forests. Despite these possibilities, previous work has focused on looking at DO dynamics within mangrove creeks, with little research focusing on understanding DO dynamics within the mangrove forests themselves during tidal inundation or of DO levels of pools within the forest remaining once the tide has ebbed. The present study investigates the pattern in DO at various distances within an estuarine Rhizophora stylosa forest in tropical north Queensland. DO levels were recorded at 5 min interval over 2 days and multiple tidal cycles, data were collected between 2013 and 2014 for a total of 32 tidal cycles encompassing multiples seasons and tidal amplitudes. There were substantial fluctuations in DO, often varying from normoxic to hypoxic within the same tidal cycle. A range of factors influenced DO dynamics, in particular: tidal height, amount of sunlight, tidal phase, and distance from the outer edge of the mangrove forest. In fact, spring tides tend to have high DO saturation, particularly during the flooding phase, however as the tide starts ebbing, DO depletes rapidly especially in areas further inside the forest. Moreover during tidal disconnection the remnant pools within the forest quickly became anoxic. These variations in DO suggest that the use of mangrove forests by animals is likely to be constrained by their ability to withstand low DO levels, and provides a plausible explanation for the apparent paucity of benthic organism observed inside similar mangrove forest in previous studies of South Pacific mangroves. Low DO levels coupled with low densities of benthic prey also provides a likely explanation for the limited utilisation of landwards areas of these forests by fish and other nekton.
Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science – Elsevier
Published: Oct 15, 2017
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