Lewis, R.R., E.C. Milbrandt, B. Brown, K.W. Krauss, A.S. Rovai, J.L. Beever, and L.L. Flynn. 2016. Stress in mangrove forests: early detection and preemptive rehabilitation are essential for future successful worldwide mangrove forest management. Marine Pollution Bulletin 109:764–771.

Mangrove forest rehabilitation should begin much sooner than at the point of catastrophic loss. We describe the need for “mangrove forest heart attack prevention”, and how that might be accomplished in a general sense by embedding plot and remote sensing monitoring within coastal management plans. The major cause of mangrove stress at many sites globally is often linked to reduced tidal flows and exchanges. Blocked water flows can reduce flushing not only from the seaward side, but also result in higher salinity and reduced sediments when flows are blocked landward. Long-term degradation of function leads to acute mortality prompted by acute events, but created by a systematic propensity for long-term neglect of mangroves. Often, mangroves are lost within a few years; however, vulnerability is re-set decades earlier when seemingly innocuous hydrological modifications are made (e.g., road construction, blocked tidal channels), but which remain undetected without reasonable large-scale monitoring.


Milbrandt, E.C., M. Thompson, L.D. Coen, R.E. Grizzle, and K. Ward. 2015. The benefits of a multiple habitat restoration strategy by combining hydrologic restoration, mangrove propagule plantings and oyster substrate additions in a semi-enclosed Florida embayment. Ecological Engineering 83:394-404.

Habitat loss and disturbance are ranked globally as the greatest threats to biodiversity. Development and coastal population growth are the leading causes for habitat losses. Recently, the restoration of marine habitats has increased, especially with the goal of increasing non-consumptive ecosystem services derived from mangrove and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) along with biogenic oyster reefs. Habitats reside in landscapes dominated by multiple species. Rather than focusing on a single habitat such as oysters or mangroves or SAV, we took an approach restoring multiple adjacent habitats to accelerate restoration in a Florida embayment that had been significantly degraded prior to the restoration of natural tidally generated flows. After a multiple habitat die-off, a project was initiated in 2006 to reintroduce tidal flushing. The re-introduction of tidal flushing, however, did not result in immediate recovery of mangrove shorelines or oyster-dominated reefs. There was a lack of mangrove propagule production and significant substrate limitation in areas with appropriate salinity, sediment and tidal flows. From 2009–2012, red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) propagules were collected (over 500,000) and planted for a total area of 3.24 ha. From 2009–2010, five intertidal reefs were constructed by adding bagged and fossil shell (54 MT) for Crassostrea virginica larvae to recruit onto totaling over 779 m2. Monitoring of planted mangrove versus unplanted shorelines demonstrated that prop root and drop root densities were higher where propagules were planted (28 m−2) versus unplanted (2.3 m−2). Oyster densities and mean sizes (multiple year classes) at new and natural reefs were measured after 8, 12, and 24, and 36 months. An initial settlement pulse was observed in the first 8 months followed by an increase in the density of greater than 1-year old oysters. Xanthid crab densities (Eurypanopeus depressus and Panopeus spp.) in restored reefs and natural reefs were similar, while Petrolisthes armatus densities were lower in restored reefs. Whole reef seston filtration rates over restored reefs were −26 to 157 L m−2 h−1 when measured at 4, 15, 28, and 40 months. A multiple habitat approach may be useful in accelerating the natural ecological succession, especially if the project site has reached a degraded, alternate ecological state. These results suggest a multiple habitat approach can be useful in providing non-provisioning ecosystem services to a Florida embayment.


Harris, R.J., E.C. Milbrandt, B. Brovard, E. Everham. 2010. The effects of reduced tidal flushing on mangrove structure and function across a disturbance gradient. Estuaries and Coasts 33:1176–1185.

The effects of reduced tidal flushing on post-hurricane mangrove recovery were measured across a gradient of hurricane disturbance (in order of decreasing wind intensity: Captiva, North Sanibel, Central Sanibel, and East Sanibel). Each region consisted of replicate study plots with either reduced tidal exchange (tidally restricted location) or an open tidal connection (tidally unrestricted location). Locations with reduced tidal exchange displayed significantly lower (two-way ANOVA, p ≤ 0.0001) tidal amplitude, decreased seedling densities, and decreased productivity (recruitment, growth, and litter fall) when compared to the tidally unrestricted locations. Results also indicated significant regional variations in measures of mangrove stand structure (seedlings and canopy) and productivity (recruitment, growth, and litter fall) up to 4-years post-hurricane disturbance. These findings suggest that the legacy effects from hurricane disturbance vary with degree of wind intensity, acting both independently and synergistically with the effects of tidal restriction to influence post-hurricane mangrove structure and function.


Milbrandt, E.C., and M.L. Tinsley. 2006. The role of saltwort (Batis maritima) on mangrove forest succession. Hydrobiologia 568:369–377.

While saltwort (Batis maritima L.) is common in the fringe mangrove forests of southwest Florida, its role in regeneration of degraded mangrove communities is not known. Given the potential encroachment and subsequent degradation of mangrove communities by sea-level rise, it is important to quantify the effect of early-colonizing vegetation to early mangrove seedling survival. A greater number of mangrove seedlings were observed in existing B. maritima patches compared to surrounding mudflats. A planting experiment was designed to determine whether B. maritima was responsible for the observed pattern. Black mangrove (Avicennia germinans L.) seedlings, raised in a nursery, were planted in previously established B. maritima patches and on mudflats with and without nursery-raised B. maritima. There was significantly lower mortality of A. germinans seedlings when planted in existing B. maritima patches (69%), compared to seedlings planted on the mudflats (93%), demonstrating that existing B. maritima improved A. germinans seedling survival. Nursery-raised B. maritima had lower mortality on open mudflats (28%), suggesting that it can tolerate conditions, which make it an early colonizer of newly available habitats. The primary mechanism proposed for improving seedling success is a slight increase in elevation provided by the dense root network of established B. maritima. These findings have implications for scientists and managers anticipating the response of mangroves to sea-level rise.


Milbrandt, E.C., J.M. Greenawalt-Boswell, P.D. Sokoloff, and S.A. Bortone. 2006. Impact and response of southwest Florida mangroves to the 2004 hurricane season. Estuaries and Coasts 29:979–984.

Although hurricane disturbance is a natural occurrence in mangrove forests, the effect of widespread human alterations on the resiliency of estuarine habitats is unknown. The resiliency of mangrove forests in southwest Florida to the 2004 hurricane season was evaluated by determining the immediate response of mangroves to a catastrophic hurricane in areas with restricted and unrestricted tidal connections. The landfall of Hurricane Charley, a category 4 storm, left pronounced disturbances to mangrove forests on southwest Florida barrier islands. A significant and negative relationship between canopy loss and distance from the eyewall was observed. While a species-specific response to the hurricane was expected, no significant differences were found among species in the size of severely impacted trees. In the region farthest from the eyewall, increases in canopy density indicated that refoliation and recovery occurred relatively quickly. There were no increases or decreases in canopy density in regions closer to the eyewall where there were complete losses of crown structures. In pre-hurricane surveys, plots located in areas of management concern (i.e., restricted connection) had significantly lower stem diameter at breast height and higher stem densities than plots with unrestricted connection. These differences partially dictated the severity of effect from the hurricane. There were also significantly lower red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) seedling densities in plots with restricted connections. These observations suggest that delays in forest recovery are possible in severely impacted areas if either the delivery of propagules or the production of seedlings is reduced by habitat fragmentation.


Proffitt, C.E., E.C. Milbrandt, and S.E. Travis. 2006. Reproduction and recruitment of Rhizophora mangle (Red Mangroves) in Charlotte Harbor following hurricane Charley. Estuaries and Coasts 29:972–978.

Reproductive aspects of life history are known to be important in recovery following disturbance in many

plant species although this has not been well studied in mangroves. Hurricane Charley devastated large areas of mangroves in Charlotte Harbor, Florida, in August 2004. We surveyed 6 forests in Charlotte Harbor (2002, 2003, and 2005) and 16 in Tampa Bay, Florida (2001, 2002, 2003, and 2005) for total numbers of reproducing trees and trees heterozygotic for albinism that produce both normal and albino propagules. Tree size (estimated height and diameter at breast height) was also recorded for sentinel heterozygotic trees. Total number of reproducing trees km-1 was used as an index of reproductive

output of the population, and deviation from the 3:1 (normal:albino propagules) ratio on heterozygotic trees expected with 100% selfing was used to estimate outcrossing. Numbers of Rhizophora mangle reproducing trees km-1 of shoreline in Charlotte Harbor were reduced by an order of magnitude following Hurricane Charley, while numbers of reproducing trees in Tampa Bay were similar to those of previous years. Reduced reproduction in Charlotte Harbor was accompanied by fewer new recruits in plots on Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Numbers of new recruits after the storm also tended to be fewer in plots where canopy loss was greater. More new recruits occurred in sites that had higher densities of pre-storm Rhizophora seedlings and greater relative dominance by Rhizophora. Outcrossing of sentinel trees was 2.5 times greater in Charlotte Harbor (mean site21 5 33.6 6 6.7%; with 17% of forest sites completely selfing) than in Tampa Bay (mean site-1 = 13.4 ± 4.7%; with 40% of sites completely selfing), although the implications for seedling recruitment of this difference are not known.


Books, Reports, & Symposia



Milbrandt, E.C. 2011. Enhancement of mangrove shorelines and habitat after hydrological restoration in Clam Bayou. Final Report to the Gulf of Mexico Foundation. 23 pp.


Click here to download a full list of SCCF Publications.