Dr. Linda Walters


Mangrove communities provide habitat for many terrestrial and aquatic species and act as nurseries and breeding grounds for fish, crustaceans, and birds. They also protect coastal areas from erosion and storm events. However, globally 35% of mangrove habitat has been degraded or destroyed, making mangroves one of the most endangered ecosystems on earth. Thus, there is a demand for methods to restore mangrove habitats successfully. The red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) is often associated with other marsh plants. We investigated whether two marsh plants (Batis maritima, Sarcocornia perennis ) act as nurse plants and increase R. mangle success by altering seedling biomass production (aboveground and belowground) under greenhouse conditions and by improving shoreline stabilization, thus increasing survival and retention of R. mangle in the field. To test these goals, we ran a replicated experiment at the University of Central Florida greenhouse to determine whether the marsh plants had negative, positive, or neutral impacts on R. mangle and examined if marsh plants increased survival and retention of R. mangle at Castle Windy shell midden in Mosquito Lagoon, Florida. Based on our experiments, S. perennis and B. maritima do not act as nurse plants for R. mangle, since the marsh plants had no statistically significant impact on R. mangle total dry weight, change in height, final height, leaf count, field survival, or retention. However, our marsh plants had less biomass than naturally occurring meadows found in the field. Additional field research is needed to determine if meadows of S. perennis and B. maritima will facilitate R. mangle success.

About the Author

Paula Yespelkis studied biology while attending the University of Central Florida. She worked as an undergraduate researcher for Dr. Linda Walters and interned with the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group. She was awarded the UCF Undergraduate Student Research Grant in 2012 and presented her research at UCF's Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence (SURE) in 2012 and 2013. After graduating, Paula worked for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as an Environmental Specialist. She now plans to return to school to pursue a master's in biology


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