Dying Mangroves of The Marls

Dead mangroves















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.

Grazed leaves 1












Grazed leaves on plants


















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.

Mangrove caterpillar












Dead mangroves Marls

By | 2017-12-01T14:04:20-05:00 February 5th, 2013|Categories: Plants|1 Comment

About the Author:

Craig Layman
My lab’s interdisciplinary pursuits provide for a multi-faceted understanding of environmental change in the coastal realm. We are ecologists, asking questions that span population, community, ecosystem and evolutionary sub-disciplines. We often use a food web based perspective, exploring top-down (e.g., predation) and bottom-up (e.g., nutrient excretion) mechanisms by which animals affect ecosystem processes. All of our efforts are framed within a broader outreach framework, directly integrating science and education, using approaches such as this website.

One Comment

  1. Avatar
    Sean Giery February 12, 2013 at 3:41 am

    Looks like it could be the Mangrove Skipper (Phocides pigmalion). I am no Lepidopterist, and it’s hard to tell from the photo, but the mangrove skipper is native to the area and also makes ‘tents’ by lashing leaves together with silk; a description matching what the photo depicts.


    As a side note, I did not see any mangrove defoliation as extensive or that intense over this past summer or fall. There were places with some local defoliation, but nothing like you show above. That is incredible!

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