We posted a few months about the dying mangroves in The Marls (Abaco).
We finally got out over the weekend to give it a look.
With just a single day of surveys, hard to say anything definitive. But one thing really stood out – extremely high levels of apparent grazing directly on the leaves. Much of this was concentrated at the die-off front, the area of the marsh at the interface of live and dead mangroves.
The apparent culprit is a caterpillar, which we believe to be that of a small moth. Obviously, we don’t want to leap to conclusions on just a single day of surveys, but the incidence and widespread grazing was unlike anything I have seen in other places (including in mangroves along the east coast of Abaco). Our lab plans to investigate in much more detail in the coming months. Our first step is to identify this caterpillar species, and see if it is linked to heavy grazing pressure elsewhere. It may be that the grazing might be especially damaging when linked to the already harsh physical conditions of The Marls. We didn’t want to raise too much alarm at this stage, as there are a lot of possibilities to explore. But that being written, the sheer extent and magnitude of grazing was striking. Stay tuned…more here as we discover additional aspects of this.