Variation in wood density and anatomy in a widespread mangrove species
Wood density is an important plant trait that influences a range of ecological processes, including resistance to damage and growth rates. Wood density is highly dependent on anatomical characteristics associated with the conductive tissue of trees (xylem and phloem) and the fibre matrix in which they occur. Here, we investigated variation in the wood density of the widespread mangrove species Avicennia marina in the Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia and in the Firth of Thames in New Zealand. We assessed how variation in xylem vessel size, fibre wall thickness and proportion of phloem within the wood contributed to variation in wood density and how these characteristics were linked to growth rates. We found the wood density of A. marina to be higher in Western Australia than in New Zealand and to be higher in taller seaward fringing trees than in scrub trees growing high in the intertidal. At the cellular level, high wood density was associated with large xylem vessels and thick fibre walls. Additionally, wood density increased with decreasing proportions of phloem per growth layer of wood. Tree growth rates were positively correlated with xylem vessel size and wood density. We conclude that A. marina can have large xylem vessel sizes and high growth rates while still maintaining high wood density because of the abundance and thickness of fibres in which vessels are found.