Salinity drives growth dynamics of the mangrove tree Sonneratia apetala Buch. -Ham. in the Sundarbans, Bangladesh

Md Saidur Rahman*, Ute Sass-Klaassen, Pieter A. Zuidema, Md Qumruzzaman Chowdhury, Hans Beeckman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Mangroves throughout the world are threatened by environmental changes apart from anthropogenic disturbances. Many of these changes may inhibit the growth and survival of mangrove species. To understand and predict the effects of global change on mangrove forests, it is necessary to obtain insights on the growth dynamics of mangroves in relation to environmental factors. This study was conducted on Sonneratia apetala, a mangrove species which grows under a range of salinity conditions across the Sundarbans in Bangladesh. We studied trees growing under respectively high, medium, and low salinity conditions based on the influence of freshwater discharge. First, the periodicity of radial growth across the year was detected by applying cambial analyses. Based on tree-ring analyses, we calculated the growth response of S. apetala to monthly variation in precipitation and temperature as well as river discharge, as a proxy for salinity. We found the cambium of S. apetala being active during the monsoon and post-monsoon period whereas it was dormant in the pre-monsoon. This periodicity in radial growth leads to the formation of distinct annual rings with ring boundaries being marked by radially flattened fibres. S. apetala trees growing under low salinity conditions generally show higher growth rates indicating the positive impact of river discharge, i.e. freshwater input on mangrove growth. Wet and warm conditions during the monsoon period positively affected S. apetala growth, especially in the low salinity zone. Our results show that salinity is the primary driver of growth dynamics of S. apetala in the Sundarbans. A gradual or seasonal increase in salinity, e.g. as a consequence of sea-level rise may therefore importantly alter the growth of this species, possibly leading to changes in mangrove forest dynamics and zonation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number125711
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Cambial activity
  • Dendrochronology
  • Growth ring
  • Sonneratia apetala
  • The Sundarbans

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