Oceanic and climatic drivers of mangrove changes in the Gulf of Urabá, Colombian Caribbean
The Gulf of Uraba is the largest estuary on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. The aim of this research was to analyse the oceanic, climatic and environmental variables that influence mangrove structure and composition in the gulf. Based on the availability of remote sensing, the study area was divided into western and eastern zones. The spatial pattern of environmental variables (water salinity, pH and percentage of organic matter, sand, silt and clay in the soils) and oceanic and climatic variables (winds, wave height and wave period) was analysed. The relationship of these variables with variables of vegetation structure (basal area, diameter at breast height, tree height, and abundance of seedlings of mangrove species in 1 m² subplots) was analysed in 27 plots of 500 m² containing fringe mangroves and 5 plots containing basin mangroves. Mangroves of the western zone showed a higher structural development and were dominated by Rhizophora mangle (red mangrove). This zone is supplied by fresh water and sediments, and the soils have a high content of organic matter and clay and a low degree of anthropogenic disturbance. The eastern zone was characterized by higher pore water salinity due to lower freshwater input from rivers. In this area there is a smaller impact of waves and winds, higher sedimentation rates, high anthropogenic disturbance and mangroves are dominated by Avicennia germinans (black mangrove). Although Laguncularia racemosa (white mangrove) did not show a particular spatial pattern, due to its tolerance to open canopy conditions it was commonly found in anthropogenically disturbed areas.