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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

SURVEY OF MANGROVE ROOT EPIBIONT COMMUNITY STRUCTURE IN BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA**

Abstract

The Bocas del Toro Archipelago in Panama’s northwestern Caribbean coast is made up of a vast network of islands fringed or covered by mangrove forests that constitute multiple ecosystem services, including providing habitat for invertebrates and fishes, buffering nearby marine ecosystems, and protecting the coast from erosion. The mangrove’s prop roots extend into sea water and structurally support a diverse assemblage of invertebrate fouling organisms including sponges, tunicates, and bivalves. These epibiont fouling communities contribute to the overall biodiversity of the region, as well as help researchers assess the overall health of the local ecosystem. While the organisms living on or around the mangrove roots contribute to the high biodiversity of the area, human impacts may alter this balance in the future, so it is important to keep an ongoing record of the mangrove root community structure. Therefore, this study aims to survey the relative distribution and abundance of different epibiont species in Bocas del Toro through the use of photographic survey techniques. We will quantify percent cover of various taxa, number of individuals, and number of species found at each site. This work will provide baseline data to further monitor invertebrate fouling communities on the changing coastlines of Bocas del Toro, Panama.

Acknowledgements

UWG Department of Biology, UWG College of Science and Mathematics

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