Colonization and survival of sessile epibionts on artificial substrates similar to rhizophores of Rhizophora mangle (Rhizophoraceae) at La Mancha, Mexico
La Mancha coastal lagoon, in the Gulf of Mexico, has an inlet that opens and closes seasonally, causing important fluctuations in flood-levels and exposing the intertidal zone to high solar radiation, high temperatures and desiccation. With the aim to examine the accumulated effect of variation in flood-levels on colonization and survival of sessile intertidal invertebrates on artificial substrates in a fringe mangrove forest, a field experiment was conducted from November-2000 to September-2001. A total of 72 PVC-stakes 2 m long were encased with cement to resemble rhizophores (prop roots) of Rhizophora mangle. They were then embedded in mud at four sampling stations (18 per station: 9 in a shaded site and 9 in a sunny site), and groups of 6 were collected from each sampling station (3 from each shaded site and 3 from each sunny site) without replacement at the end of each climatic period (Eastern winds, dry and rainy). The open-closed condition of the inlet and the flood-level were monitored during different days throughout the 308-day experiment period. Temporal, spatial and vertical distribution of Species richness (S) and abundance of living and dead individuals were registered, and the data was analyzed by ANOVA. Only seven species colonized the substrates, the majority of them were recorded throughout the year and in all sampling stations. There was no seasonal succession of species. At the end of the experiment, only 20 % of the epibionts had survived. The polychaete Ficopomatus miamiensis was the most abundant, but had significantly lower survival than the other species (0-14 %). Epibionts preferred to settle in shaded sites rather than sunny ones regardless of the sampling station and the climatic season. In conclusion, artificial substrate colonization was successful but the majority of epibionts died because of long exposure and desiccation after the inlet was opened by local fishermen. Manual digging of the sand-barrier by local fishermen, disrupts the natural flooding cycles of the lagoon, and could severely impact the future development of mangrove communities.