Sensitivity of the sediment trapping capacity of an estuarine mangrove forest

P.W.J.M. Willemsen*, E.M. Horstman, B.W. Borsje, D.A. Friess, C.M. Dohmen-Janssen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)
141 Downloads (Pure)


Intertidal mangrove forests exist in a dynamic coastal environment that is increasingly impacted by human interference, leading to habitat fragmentation, reduced habitat quality and changing hydrodynamic and geomorphological conditions. Biophysical feedback mechanisms are essential to maintain mangrove ecosystems under such changing conditions, for example by facilitating sediment deposition during periods of tidal flooding to allow for long-term coastal accretion. However, human interferences affect these biophysical interactions. This study investigated the consequences of two widespread anthropogenic intervention scenarios on biophysical interactions in mangroves: sediment starvation (reduced sediment supply) and coastal squeeze (limited landward accommodation space). Field observations of hydrodynamics and sediment dynamics were conducted in Mandai mangrove fringing the sheltered northern shore of Singapore. A process-based numerical model (Delft3D) of this field site was set-up, providing accurate approximations of the observed flow velocities and deposition rates. This model was used for a scenario analysis of the initial response of the sediment trapping capacity in the mangrove system to instantaneous changes related to anthropogenic interventions. This analysis showed increased deposition rates in major parts of the mangrove when sediment supplies increased (up to three times more deposition after 1 tide) or when the landward accommodation space of the mangrove was extended (+ 17% deposition). A comparison of the outcomes of these scenarios with the current state of the mangrove underlined a lack of short-term sediment trapping capacity, affecting the (longer-term) adaptive capacity of the system. Thus, at present Mandai mangrove is potentially affected by reduced sediment supply and limited landward accommodation space. Importantly, actions to reduce this anthropogenic influence could enhance mangroves' sediment trapping capacity, facilitating increased resilience to future projected changes such as sea-level rise. Understanding this influence of anthropogenic interventions on mangrove resilience is essential if we are aiming to maintain coastal ecosystem stability, especially along rapidly changing and urbanizing tropical shorelines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-201
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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