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Mangrove Ecology

Mangroves are forests that dwell along tropical and subtropical coasts and provide a link between the sea and land. Both locally and globally, they provide a basis for teh production of food, and local communities use them as a source for wood extraction. From an ecological perspective, they support a detritus-based food web through exporting their leaf litter into estuarine and coastal waters, where it supports a plethora of marine life that uses mangroves as shelter, migration site or nursery. The accretion and stabilization of sediments contribute to protecting teh coasts from erosion and storm surges. Being popular touristic sites, they offer aditional income for local people.

Mangroves are among the most efficient CO2-sinks: because of their high productivity, they store more carbon and nitrogen in their biomass and the sediments than many other ecosystems. Hence, they potentially contribute to mitigating climate gas-driven climate change.

Almost worldwide, mangroves are threatened by human use and exploitation
- e.g., wood extraction and clear-cutting, pollution and eutrophication of rivers and coastal waters, dredging and diking for land-claiming- as well as by the ongoing (relative) sea level rise. Annual area losses range among 2-8 % of the worldwide mangrove area, and within the next 100 years, mangrove might be entirely lost.

Besides the direkt loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, the ongoing loss of mangroves exhibits indirect effects on adjacent ecosystems, such as seagrass meadows or coral reefs, that suffer from increased sedimentation upon removing mangroves. Further, the destruction of mangroves eradicates breeding- and nursery areas of numerous marine species.

Through observational, experimental and modelling approaches, the Mangrove Ecology Group aims at providing a scientifically sound basis for the sustainable use, management and conservation of mangroves worldwide.

Group Leader

Prof. Dr. Martin Zimmer
+49 (421) 23800 - 161

IUCN Mangrove Symposium 2017

Sorry, the deadline for registration was June 15...
For more information about the symposium, contact
mangrove-symposiume-mail addressleibniz-zmt.de

Special Issue on "Mangrove Ecology and Conservation"

For more information, check the webpage of the journal Diversity

Research Approaches and Methods

A quick overview...

Lab for extracting envDNA (contact: V. Helfer; S. Peters)

(pyrolysis-)gas chromatography/mass spectrometry for analyzing organic matter in plants and sediments (contact: M. Zimmer; R. Himmelsbach)

Micro-sensors for small-scale analysis of environmental parameters in sediments (contact: M. Zimmer; L. Gillis)

Our aim is to provide a reliable scientific fundament for the protection and the sustainable use of mangroves that can serve as guideline for stakeholders and decision-makers for the planning and management of protected areas:

For this, knowledge and in-depth understanding of the ecosystem is required - Which organisms occur under which environmental conditions (biodiversity)? How do organisms interact (biotic interactions), and how to they respond to environmental change? How will the ecological community change, when the environment and resource-use by humans will change (model-based projections)? Which processes are currently driven by the community, and how will this change in the future (ecosystem processes)? Which ecosystem services result from these processes, how are they utilized by whom (social-ecological systems analysis), and how can their use be rendered sustainable (conservation-prioritization, -planning and -management)?

We describe mangrove communities with the aid of classical faunistics and floristics but also through metabarcoding (and metagenomics) of environmental (and microbial) DNA. Correlations between community composition and environmental conditions are translated into models that project future future mangrove communities in space and time. With a focus on sediment processes and dynamics, we analyze the chemical structure (metabolomics: (py-)GC/MS; NIRS) and the dynamics (transcriptomics) of organic matter and quantify fluxes (export/import) of elements and nutrients (micro-sensors). Further, we study the accretion and erosion of sediments as they depend on mangrove community composition.

Greenhouses for raising mangrove treelings (contact: M. Zimmer; A. Meyer)

Field study-sites of the Mangrove Ecology Group

Red colors indicate coastal areas with mangrove vegetation.

Map adapted from:
Giri. C, Ochieng E, Tieszen LL, Zhu Z, Singh A, Loveland T, Masek J, Duke N (2011). Status and distribution of mangrove forests of the world using earth observation satellite data (version 1.3, updated by UNEP-WCMC). Global Ecology and Biogeography 20: 154-159.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1466- 8238.2010.00584.x/abstract 

Current Projects

Changing foundation species: ecosystem effects of mangrove invasion into salt marshes (S.C. Pennings, A.R. Armitage, J. Kominoski, G. Starr, H. Guo, Z. Hughes, V. Helfer & M. Zimmer (associated investigators))

Mangrove community structure and ecosystem services: from sediment cores to mangrove conservation (V. Helfer, U. Mehlig, M. Glaser, H. Westphal, M. Wolff, M. Zimmer) (ZMT)

Diversity and community composition of Hainan´s coastal benthic invertebrates related to the dispersal of land-derived pollutants (within ECOLOC, I. Nordhaus) (BMBF)

TAMCOP - Trait-based across-system analysis of mangrove communities and processes: MADAM and SPICE revisited (A. Quadros, I. Nordhaus, H. Reuter & M. Zimmer) (ZMT)

Exploring carbon dynamics in connected mangrove forests and seagrass beds: how important is it? (DFG)

DiSeMiNation - Digging into sediments and microbes for Nature conservation: Identifying the drivers of ecosystem processes for spatial conservation planning (V. Helfer, B. Fedder, H. Reuter & M. Zimmer) (Leibniz)

PADDLE - Planning in a liquid world with tropical stakes: solutions from an EU-Africa-Brazil perspective (EU: RISE)

From ground to sky: bridging scales in the study of coastal changes using satellites, drones and field-based measurements (A. Rovere, M. Zimmer, E. Casella, V. Helfer)

The Team

Group leader
Prof. Dr. Martin Zimmer

Dr. Lucy Gillis
Dr. Véronique Helfer
Dr. Inga Nordhaus

PhD candidates
Ulf Evert (Zimmer)
Hanno Müller (Zimmer)
Waseem Razaqq Khan (Zimmer external)
Daniel Arturo Saavedra Hortua (Gillis & Zimmer)
Theresa Schwenke (Glaser, Zimmer & Reuter)

M.Sc. students
Michael Kyei Agyekum (Zimmer)
Tarek Bakkar (Zimmer & Helfer)
Robert Boumis (Nordhaus)
Hannah Marlene Cordts (Nordhaus)
Sophie Forgeron (Quadros & Zimmer)
Maroje Krajina (Zimmer & Helfer)
Mayli Ortiz (Zimmer)
Mónica Salazar-Ortiz (Helfer & Zimmer)
Johann Stiepani (Nordhaus & Gillis)
Lara Stuthmann (Castellanos-Galindo & Zimmer)
Mirco Wölfelschneider (Zimmer & Helfer)

B.Sc. students
Jan-Hinrich Quandt (Helfer)
Clara Voigt (Ferse & Nordhaus)

-Terezia Horvathova (Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University,
Kraków, Poland) (March 2017-September 2017: Zimmer)

Information about the former head of the group can be found here:
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Saint-Paul (retired)

Job Offers

More information about job offers at ZMTcan be found here...

Recent Publications (last three years)

Bakkar T, Helfer V, Himmelsbach R, Zimmer M. 2017. Chemical changes in detrital matter upon digestive processes in a sesarmid crab feeding on mangrove leaf litter. Hydrobiologia: in press.

Pestana DF, Pülmanns N, Nordhaus I, Diele K, Zimmer M. 2017. The influence of crab burrows on sediment salinity in a Rhizophora-dominated mangrove forest in North Brazil during the dry season. Hydrobiologia: in press.

Jennerjahn TC, Gilman E, Krauss KW, Lacerda LD, Nordhaus I, Wolanski E. in press. Chapter 7: Climate Change. In: Rivera-Monroy V, Lee SY, Kristensen E, Twilley RR (Eds). Mangrove Ecosystems: A Global Biogeographic Perspective; Structure, Function and Services. Springer.

Lee SY, Jones EBG, Diele K, Castellanos-Galindo GA, Nordhaus I. in press. Chapter 3: Biodiversity. In: Rivera-Monroy V, Lee SY, Kristensen E, Twilley RR (Eds). Mangrove Ecosystems: A Global Biogeographic Perspective; Structure, Function and Services. Springer.

Helfer V, Zimmer M. 2017. High-throughput techniques as support for knowledge-based spatial conservation prioritization in mangrove ecosystems. In: Makowski C, Finkl CW (eds). Threats to Mangrove Forests: Hazards, Vulnerablity and Management. Springer (in press).

Zimmer M. 2017. Detritus. In: Jorgensen SE, Fath BD (ed). Encyclopedia of Ecology 2nd edition. Elsevier (in press).

Zimmer M. 2017. Ecosystem Design: when mangrove ecology meets human needs. In: Makowski C, Finkl CW (eds). Threats to Mangrove Forests: Hazards, Vulnerablity and Management. Springer (in press).

Nordhaus I, Salewski T, Jennerjahn TC. 2017. Interspecific variations in mangrove leaf litter decomposition are related to labile nitrogenous compounds. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 192: 137-148.

Belshe EF, Matteo MA, Gillis LG, Zimmer M, Teichberg M. 2017. Muddy waters: Unintentional consequences of blue carbon research obscure our understanding of organic carbon dynamics in seagrass ecosystems. Frontiers in Marine Sciences 4: 125.

Gillis LG, Belshe FE, Narayan GR. 2017. Deforested mangroves affect the potential for carbon linkages between connected ecosystems. Estuaries and Coasts.

Gillis LG, Belshe, FE, Ziegler AD, Bouma TJ. 2017. Driving forces of organic carbon spatial distribution in the tropical seascape. Journal of Sea Research.

Saint-Paul U, Zimmer M. 2017. Mangroven - Wälder zwischen Land und Meer. - In: Hempel G, Bischof K, Hagen W (Eds). Faszination Meeresforschung. Springer. 291-302.

Alberts-Hubatsch H, Lee SY, Meynecke JO, Diele K, Nordhaus I, Wolff M. 2016. Life-history, movement and habitat use of Scylla serrata - current knowledge and future challenges. Hydrobiologia 763: 5-21.

Dwiyitno, Dsikowitzky L, Nordhaus I, Nuri Andarwulan, Hari Eko Irianto, Hanifah Nuryani Lioe, Farida Ariyani, Kleinertz S, Schwarzbauer J. 2016. Accumulation patterns of lipophilic organic contaminants in surface sediments and in economic important mussel and fish species from Jakarta Bay, Indonesia. Marine Pollution Bulletin 110(2): 767-777.

Gillis LG, Zimmer M, Bouma TB. 2016. Mangrove leaf transportation: Do mimic Avicennia and Rhizophora roots retain or donate leaves? Marine Ecology Progress Series 551: 107-115.

Pülmanns N, Mehlig U, Nordhaus I, Saint-Paul U, Diele K. 2016. Mangrove crab Ucides cordatus removal does not affect sediment parameters and stipule production in a one year experiment in Northern Brazil. PLoS ONE 11(12): 1-19.

Quak MSY, Ziegler AD, Benner SG, Evans S, Todd PA, Gillis LG, Vongtanaboon S, Jachowski N, Bouma TJ. 2016. Processes affecting the spatial distribution of seagrass meadow sedimentary material on Yao Yai Island, Thailand. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Sciences 182: 136-145.

Ray R, Shahraki M. 2016. Multiple sources driving the organic matter dynamics in two contrasting tropical mangroves. Science of the Total Environment 571: 218-227.

Shahraki M. 2016. In a Harsh Desert, a Watery Forest Survives. National Geographic News (interview article)

Shahraki M. Fry B. 2016. Seasonal fisheries changes in low-rainfall mangrove ecosystems of Iran. Estuaries and Coasts 39: 529-541.

Shahraki M, Saint- Paul U, Krumme U, Fry B. 2016. Fish use of intertidal mangrove creeks at Qeshm Island. Marine Ecology Progress Series 542:153-166.

Vermeiren P, Munoz C, Zimmer M, Sheaves M. 2016. Hierarchical toolbox: Ensuring scientific accuracy of citizen science for tropical coastal ecosystems. Ecological Indicators 66: 242-250.

Wolter JW, Gillis LG, Bouma TJ, van Katwijk MM, Ziegler AD. 2016. Land use effects on mangrove nutrient status in Phang Nga bay, Thailand. Land Degradation and Development 27, 68-76.

Zimmer M, Helfer V. 2016. Biodiversität, Ökosystemprozesse und Ökosystemleistungen. In: Lozán JL, Breckle S-W, Müller R, Rachor E (Eds). Warnsignal Klima: Die Biodiversität. Verlag Wissenschaftliche Auswertungen. 297-302.
Gillis LG, Bouma TB, Ziegler AD, Cathalot C, Herman PMJ. 2015. Toward understanding the roles of mangrove and seagrass particulate matter as a nitrogen source in tropical coastal ecosystems. Biotropica 47(3): 286-291.

Hübner L, Pennings SC, Zimmer M. 2015. Sex- and habitat-specific movement of an omnivorous semi-terrestrial crab controls habitat connectivity and subsidies: A multi-parameter approach. Oecologia 178: 999-1015.

Paul M, Gillis LG. 2015. Let it flow: How does an underlying current affect wave propagation over a natural seagrass meadow? Marine Ecology Progress Series 523: 57−70.

Pülmanns N, Nordhaus I, Diele K, Mehlig U. 2015. Artificial crab burrows facilitate desalting of rooted mangrove sediment in a microcosm study. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering 3(3): 539-559, Special Issue: Biogeochemical Cycles in Mangrove Forests.