When Salt Flats by Any Other Name are Mangroves
by Gilberto Cintron, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Salinas, salt flats, coastal sabkhas, apicuns, and albinas are all names for the same geomorphic features. They are upper intertidal lands characterized by extreme flatness and salt levels. Where there are moisture deficits (arid areas) and lots of insulation (solar radiation), salt accumulates as the water evaporates. In more moist environments, salts would not accumulate and the areas are invaded by mangroves.
In some regions the mangrove/salina boundary shifts periodically due to decadal changes in moisture (such as El Niño events) and an 18-year tidal cycle, which is a normal tidal component. These two cycles can interact producing lower tidal flushing and limited freshwater inputs which favor salt accumulation and salt flat dominance over mangroves. When moist periods and greater tidal amplitudes return, these favor mangrove re-occupation. This is why in some of these landscapes you often see “forests” of dead mangroves on salt flats.