Mangroves are a critical forest ecosystem, dominating coastlines in tropical and subtropical regions of the globe. There are 54-75 species of true mangroves, which are found only in the intertidal zones of coasts, and are taxonomically isolated from terrestrial counterparts. They are highly adapted to their environment, capable of excluding or expelling salt, allowing mangroves to thrive in highly saline waters and soils. Salinity can still limit the distribution of mangroves, however, as can other environmental factors such as climate, tidal fluctuation, and sediment and wave energy. Mangroves are found worldwide, but the greatest species diversity is in Southeast Asia, with only twelve species inhabiting New World countries, and only four of those are found in the United States along the southern coast.
Maps of Mangrove Distribution
Check out the following links for world maps of mangrove distribution
National Geographic Magazine (pdf 1.5 MB)
Landsat Enables World’s Most Comprehensive Mangrove Assessment
The countries with the largest area of mangroves are:
- Estimates of
- indicate that there are 16-24 families and 54-75 species worldwide. The greatest mangrove species diversity exists in SE Asia.
- Only 12 mangrove species are found in the
- , with 4 of these occurring along portions of the SE USA (Florida) coast.
Spatial variation, or zonation, is a common trait for mangrove forests both horizontally and vertically. Certain species are found in monospecific bands parallel to the shore or in mosaics; however, patterns of distribution vary with location, both locally and regionally. There are many hypotheses about how and why zonation occurs, but no consensus has been reached. Interspecific variation is also quite high; mangrove height ranges from only a few feet to over one hundred feet and species exhibit different adaptations to salinity.