Findings of Critical Ecosystem Habitats Presented at International Conference

Randall Weiseman General

Mangrove trees along the turquoise green water in the stream

Two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) researchers will be among those presenting new data at a conference addressing mangrove ecosystems, which are critical for many things, including seafood habitat and erosion prevention.

Todd Osborne and Rupesh Bhomia, both with the UF/IFAS soil and water sciences department, will make presentations at the Mangrove Macrobenthos Meeting in St. Augustine, Florida, July 18 to July 22. This is the fourth meeting of these global mangrove experts and the first time it’s being held in the United States.

“We chose to have it in St. Augustine because we felt a lot of the mangrove research community would appreciate seeing this area of expansion of mangroves into the marshy habitats,” said Osborne, an assistant professor who works at UF’s Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience in St. Augustine, and a co-host of the conference.

While at the conference, Osborne will present research on how mangrove systems are replacing marsh and what that means for the mangrove system denizens. In marshes or mangrove ecosystems, organic matter from places like tree leaves provides the basics for the food web, Osborne said.

“If you replace marsh grass with a tree, we’re trying to understand what that means for the system,” Osborne said. “Will the fisheries change? Will our ability to have a productive ecosystem change? We really don’t know.”

Bhomia, who works in West Palm Beach, will talk about research results from three countries in western Africa: Liberia, Senegal and Gabon. He and his colleagues conducted studies to determine ecosystem carbon stocks in different mangrove patches.

One of their main objectives was to highlight the importance of mangroves’ role in climate change mitigation and estimate the potential carbon losses should these areas be converted to some other land use category, Bhomia said.

Like previous such conferences, this meeting will bring together scientists from multiple disciplines and managers who work on mangroves. This conference seeks to raise awareness about the relationships between the plants and animals that live in these coastal wetlands as well as human-mangrove interactions.

Here are a few examples of the importance of mangrove ecosystems.

According to the World Wildlife Federation, there are 25 times more fish on reefs close to mangrove areas than in areas where mangroves have been cut down. Exploring reef ecosystems is fun with

Furthermore, mangroves serve as valuable areas for shrimp, crustaceans, mollusks and fish, according to the website of the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Florida, Also, according to the museum’s website, mangroves protect shorelines from damaging storm and hurricane winds, waves and floods. Mangroves also help prevent erosion by stabilizing sediments with their tangled root systems.

As a result of warmer winters and sea level rise, the distribution of mangroves is expanding northward and landward along this part of the Florida peninsula into coastal wetlands that have historically been dominated by saltmarsh plants, according to the conference website,

St. Augustine provides numerous opportunities for conference attendees to witness the consequences of climate change, setting the stage for an international discussion on the causes and consequences of mangrove ecosystem responses to an ever-changing climate.

“This research into the mitigation of the consequences of climate change can eventually lead to broader application that can help mitigate the results of climate change on other ecosystems,” according to the conference website.

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303,

Sources: Todd Osborne, 352-256-3826,

Rupesh Bhomia, 352-870-2461,