Analysis of coastal storm damage resistance in successional mangrove species

Rosanna Hespen, Zhan Hu*, Yisheng Peng, Bas W. Borsje, Maarten Kleinhans, Tom Ysebaert, Tjeerd J. Bouma, Tjeerd J. Bouma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
70 Downloads (Pure)


Use of mangrove ecosystems for coastal flood protection requires reliable predictions of mangrove wave attenuation, especially if this capacity lessens due to storm-induced forest damage. Quantifying and understanding the variation in drag forces and mechanical properties of mangrove vegetation can improve assessment of mangrove protective capacity. We studied five mangrove species common in the subtropical Pearl River Delta, south China. The studied species range from typically landward-occurring to more seaward-occurring pioneer species. We sampled across seven sites in the delta to study the impact of salinity on mechanical properties. We quantified strength and flexibility of branches (branch strength and flexibility related to branch diameter, modulus of rupture and modulus of elasticity), leaf strength (leaf attachment strength related to leaf size, and leaf mass per area) and drag properties (drag force related to surface area and drag coefficient). For all tested species, larger branch diameters resulted in higher mechanical strength. Larger leaf size resulted in larger peak pulling forces and larger branch surface area resulted in stronger drag forces. Notably, species that generally occur lower in the intertidal zone, where exposure to wind and waves is higher, had relatively stronger branches but more easily detachable leaves. This may be regarded as a damage-avoiding strategy. Across the seven field sites, we found no clear effect of salinity on mangrove mechanical properties. This study provides a mechanistic insight in the storm damage process for individual mangrove trees and a solid base for modeling storm (surge) damage at the forest scale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3221-3236
Number of pages16
JournalLimnology and oceanography
Issue number8
Early online date18 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


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