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Mangrove growth rings: fact or fiction?

The analysis of tree rings in the tropics is less straightforward than in temperate areas with a demarcated unfavourable winter season. But especially in mangroves, the highly dynamic intertidal environment and the overriding ecological drivers therein have been a reason for questioning the existence of growth rings. This study aimed at casting light on growth rings in mangroves. In six mangrove species growing in Gazi Bay, Kenya (Sonneratia alba, Heritiera littoralis, Ceriops tagal, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, Xylocarpus granatum andLumnitzera racemosa), the occurrence of growth rings was examined. Growth rate of each species was determined based on a 1-year period using the cambial marking technique. The effect of climate was furthermore considered by comparing the results with a number of wood samples originating from contrasting climatic regions. We can conclude that for growth rings to appear in mangroves more than one condition has to be fulfilled, making general statements impossible and explaining the prevalent uncertainty. Climatic conditions that result in a range of soil water salinity experienced over the year are a prerequisite for the formation of growth rings. For species with an anatomy characterized by indistinct ring boundaries, this should be combined with a growth rate of at least 0.3 m/year. The use of growth rings for age or growth rate determinations should thus be evaluated on a case by case basis.



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