Mangroves in La Paz, Mexico  | Photo: Martin Zimmer


Follow news, events and activities about mangrove conservation and restoration on "World of Mangroves"!


About the work group Mangrove Ecology

Mangroves are forests that dwell along tropical and subtropical coasts and provide a link between the sea and land. Both locally and globally, they provide a basis for the production of food, and local communities use them as a source for wood extraction. From an ecological perspective, they support a detritus-based food web through exporting their leaf litter into estuarine and coastal waters, where it supports a plethora of marine life that uses mangroves as shelter, migration site or nursery. The accretion and stabilization of sediments contribute to protecting teh coasts from erosion and storm surges. Being popular touristic sites, they offer aditional income for local people.

Mangroves are among the most efficient CO2-sinks: because of their high productivity, they store more carbon and nitrogen in their biomass and the sediments than many other ecosystems. Hence, they potentially contribute to mitigating climate gas-driven climate change.

Almost worldwide, mangroves are threatened by human use and exploitation
- e.g., wood extraction and clear-cutting, pollution and eutrophication of rivers and coastal waters, dredging and diking for land-claiming- as well as by the ongoing (relative) sea level rise. With an annual rate of almost 1%, we loose mangroves worldwide even more rapidly than tropical rain forests, and within the next 100 years, mangrove might be entirely lost.

Besides the direkt loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, the ongoing loss of mangroves exhibits indirect effects on adjacent ecosystems, such as seagrass meadows or coral reefs, that suffer from increased sedimentation upon removing mangroves. Further, the destruction of mangroves eradicates breeding- and nursery areas of numerous marine species.

Through observational, experimental and modelling approaches, the Mangrove Ecology Group aims at providing a scientifically sound basis for the sustainable use, management and conservation of mangroves worldwide.


Research Approaches and Methods

A quick overview......

Lab for extracting envDNA (contact: V. Helfer; S. Peters)

Our aim is to provide a reliable scientific fundament for the protection and the sustainable use of mangroves that can serve as guideline for stakeholders and decision-makers for the planning and management of protected areas: For this, knowledge and in-depth understanding of the ecosystem is required - Which organisms occur under which environmental conditions (biodiversity)? How do organisms interact (biotic interactions), and how to they respond to environmental change? How will the ecological community change, when the environment and resource-use by humans will change (model-based projections)? Which processes are currently driven by the community, and how will this change in the future (ecosystem processes)? Which ecosystem services result from these processes, how are they utilized by whom (social-ecological systems analysis), and how can their use be rendered sustainable (conservation-prioritization, -planning and -management)?

(pyrolysis-)gas chromatography/mass spectrometry for analyzing organic matter in plants and sediments (contact: M. Zimmer; R. Himmelsbach)

We describe mangrove communities with the aid of classical faunistics and floristics but also through metabarcoding (and metagenomics) of environmental (and microbial) DNA. Correlations between community composition and environmental conditions are translated into models that project future future mangrove communities in space and time. With a focus on sediment processes and dynamics, we analyze the chemical structure (metabolomics: (py-)GC/MS; NIRS) and the dynamics (transcriptomics) of organic matter and quantify fluxes (export/import) of elements and nutrients (micro-sensors). Further, we study the accretion and erosion of sediments as they depend on mangrove community composition.

Micro-sensors for small-scale analysis of environmental parameters in sediments (contact: M. Zimmer; L. Gillis)

Greenhouses for raising mangrove treelings (contact: M. Zimmer; A. Meyer)

Field study-sites of the Mangrove Ecology Group

map 2018 copy

Red colors indicate coastal areas with mangrove vegetation.

Map adapted from:
Giri. C, Ochieng E, Tieszen LL, Zhu Z, Singh A, Loveland T, Masek J, Duke N (2011). Status and distribution of mangrove forests of the world using earth observation satellite data (version 1.3, updated by UNEP-WCMC). Global Ecology and Biogeography 20: 154-159. 8238.2010.00584.x/abstract


Recent Publications from the group (last three years)

Le Minor M, Zimmer M, Helfer V, Gillis LG, Huhn K. 2020. Flow and sediment dynamics around structures in mangrove ecosystems - modeling perspective. In: Sidik F, Friess D (Eds). Dynamik sedimentary environments of mangrove coasts. Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: 83-120.

Helfer V, Hassenrück C. 2020. Microbial communities in mangrove sediments. In: Sidik F, Friess D (Eds). Dynamik sedimentary environments of mangrove coasts. Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: 142-175.

Zimmer M, Helfer V. 2020. Quantity and quality of organic matter in mangrove sediments. In: Sidik F, Friess D (Eds). Dynamik sedimentary environments of mangrove coasts. Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: 369-391.

Schaeffer-Novelli Y, Cintrón-Molero G, Abuchahla GMO (eds). 2020. Brazilian mangroves and salt marshes. Springer, Heidelberg.

Schwenke T, Helfer V. 2020. Beyond borders: The status of interdisciplinary mangrove research in the face of global and local threats. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science (in press) (

Dahdouh-Guebas F, Ajonina GN, Amir AA, Andradi-Brown DA, Aziz I, Balke T, Barbier EB, Cannicci S, Cragg SM, Cunha-Lignon M, Curnick DJ, Duarte CM, Duke NC, Endsor C, Fratini S, Feller IC, Fromard F, Hugé J, Huxham M, Kairo JG, Kajita T, Kathiresan K, Koedam N, Lee SY, Lin H-J, Mackenzie JR, Mangora MM, Marchand C, Meziane T, Minchinton TE, Pettorelli N, Polanía J, Polgar G, Poti M, Primavera J, Quarto A, Rog SM, Satyanarayana B, Schaeffer-Novelli Y, Spalding M, Van der Stocken T, Wodehouse D, Yong JWH, Zimmer M, Friess DA. 2020. Public perceptions of mangrove forests matter for their conservation. Frontiers in Marine Sciences 7: 603651. (

Allard SM, Costa MT, Bulseco AN, Helfer V, Wilkins LGE, Hassenrück C,Zengler K, Zimmer M, Erazo N, Mazza Rodrigues JL, Duke N, Melo VMM, Vanwonterghem I, Junca H, Makonde HM, Jiménez DJ, Tavares TCL, Fusi M, Daffonchio D, Duarte CM, Peixoto RS, Rosado AS, Gilbert JA, Bowman J. 2020. Introducing the Mangrove Microbiome Initiative: Identifying microbial research priorities and approaches to better understand, protect, and rehabilitate mangrove ecosystems. mSystems 5(5): e00658-20. (

Dahdouh-Guebas F, Hugé J, Abuchahla GMO, Cannicci S, Jayatissa LP, Kairo JG, Arachchilage SK, Koedam N, Mafaziya Nijamdeen TWGF, Mukherjee N, Poti M, Prabakaran N, Ratsimbazafy HA, Satyanarayana B, Thavanayagam M, Velde KV, Wodehouse D. 2020. Reconciling nature, people and policy in the mangrove social-ecological system through the adaptive cycle heuristic. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science (

Friess DA, Yando ES, Abuchahla GMO, Adams JB, Cannicci S, Canta SWJ, Cavanaugh KC, Connolly RM, Cormier N, Dahdouh-Guebas F, Diele K, Feller IC, Fratini S, Jennerjahn TC, Lee SY, Ogurcak DE, Ouyang X, Rogers K, Rowntree JK, Sharma S, Sloey TM, Wee AKS. 2020. Mangroves give cause for conservation optimism, for now. Current Biology 30, R135-R158. (

Perdomo Trujillo LV, Mançera Pineda JE, Medina Calderon JH, Zimmer M, Schnetter M-L. 2020. Massive loss of aboveground biomass and its effect on sediment organic carbon concentration: Less mangrove, more carbon? Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science: (

Saavedra-Hortua DA, Friess DA, Zimmer M, Gillis LG. 2020. Sources of particulate organic matter across mangrove forests and adjacent ecosystems in different geomorphic settings. Wetlands: Wetlands 40: 1047-1059. (

Khan WR, Nazre M, Zulkifli SZ, Mohamad Roslan MK, Zimmer M. 2020. Risk assessment of heavy metal concentrations in sediments of Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve (MMFR). Tropical Conservation Science (in press).


Curnick DJ, Pettorelli N, Amir AA, Balke T, Barbier EB, Crooks S, Dahdouh-Guebas F, Duncan C, Endsor C, Friess DA, Quarto A, Zimmer M, Lee SY. 2019. The value of small mangrove patches. Science 363 (6424): 239.

Bertrand A, Zimmer M & Consortium of WP2 of PADDLE. 2019. Report on tropical marine ecosystem dynamics in the last decade. PADDLE-Report WP2-D2.1

Gillis LG, Snavely E, Lovelock C, Zimmer M. 2019. Effects of crab burrows on sediment characteristics in a Ceriops australis-dominated mangrove forest. Estuarine Coastal & Shelf Science 218: 334-339.

Quadros AF, Nordhaus I, Reuter H, Zimmer M. 2019. Modelling of mangrove annual leaf litterfall with emphasis on the role of vegetation structure. Estuarine Coastal & Shelf Science 218: 292-299.

Le Minor M, Bartzke G, Zimmer M, Gillis LG, Helfer V, Huhn K. 2019. Numerical modelling of hydraulics and sediment dynamics around mangrove seedlings: Implications for mangrove establishment and reforestation. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 217: 81-95.

 Zimmer M. 2019. Detritus. In: Jorgensen SE, Fath BD (ed). Encyclopedia of Ecology 2nd edition, Volume 3. Elsevier: 292-301.


Dsikowitzky L, Damar A, Ferse SCA, Irianto HE, Jennerjahn TC, Lukas MC, Nordhaus I, Pohlmann T, Schwarzbauer J, Sugama K, Sumiono B. 2018. Java Island. In: C Sheppard (Eds). World Seas – An Environmental Evaluation. Volume II: The Indian Ocean to the Pacific. Academic Press: 459-490.

Faber J, Quadros AF, Zimmer M. 2018. A space-for-time approach to study the effects of increasing temperature on leaf litter decomposition under natual conditions. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 123: 250-256.

Rosário RPG, Abuchahla GMO. 2018. Arcabouço legal de proteção aos manguezais. In: ICMBio, Atlas dos Manguezais do Brasil. Brasília, Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade, pp 75-83.

Schaeffer-Novelli Y, Cintrón-Molero G, Reis-Neto AS, Abuchahla GMO, Neta LCP, Lira-Medeiros CF. 2018. Sistema Manguezal. In: Amaral ACZ, Turra A, Ciotti AM, Wongtschowski C, Schaeffer-Novelli Y (eds). Métodos de estudo em ecossistemas costeiros. Campinas, Biblioteca/UNICAMP, pp 175-196.

Schaeffer-Novelli Y, Cintrón-Molero G, Reis-Neto AS, Abuchahla GMO, Neta LCP, Lira-Medeiros CF. 2018. The mangroves of Araçá Bay through time: An interdisciplinary approach for conservation of spatial diversity at large scale. Ocean and Coastal Management 164:60-67. (

Khan WR, Nazre M, Zulkifli SZ, Kudus KA, Zimmer M,  Roslan MK, Mukhtar A, Mostapa R, Gandaseca S. 2018. Reflection of stable isotopes and selected elements with the inundation gradient at the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve (MMFR), Malaysia. International Forestry Review: in press.
Nordhaus I. 2018. Macrobenthos: Ecological Functions of Benthic Animals. In: Hempel G, Hempel I, Hornige A (Eds.) Scientific Partnership for a Better Future. Bremen´s Research along Tropical Coasts. Edition Falkenberg, pp. 41-43.

Nordhaus, I., Roelke, D., Vaquer-Sunyer, R., Winter, C. (2018): Coastal systems in transition: From a 'natural' to an 'anthropogenically-modified' state. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 211: 1-5.

Quadros AF, Zimmer M. 2018. Dataset of “true mangroves” plant species traits. Biodiversity Data Journal 5: e22089.

Saeedi H, Kamrani E, Nordhaus I, Diele K. 2018. Sediment temperature impact on population structure and dynamics of the crab Austruca iranica Pretzmann, 1971 (Crustacea: Ocypodidae) in subtropical mangroves of the Persian Gulf. Wetlands.

Helfer V, Zimmer M. 2018. High-throughput techniques as support for knowledge-based spatial conservation prioritization in mangrove ecosystems. In: Makowski C, Finkl CW (eds). Threats to Mangrove Forests: Hazards, Vulnerability and Management. Springer: 539-554.

Zimmer M. 2018. Alike but distinct: mangrove forests worldwide. In: Hempel G, Hempel I, Hornidge A.K (eds). Scientific partnersip for a better future: Bremen’s research along tropical coasts. Edition Falkenberg. 76-79.

Zimmer M. 2018. Ecosystem Design: when mangrove ecology meets human needs. In: Makowski C, Finkl CW (eds). Threats to Mangrove Forests: Hazards, Vulnerability and Management. Springer: 367-376.

Further research projects

KATRINA - Aquaculture and integrated mangrove rehabilitation in Kalimantan, Indonesia (Zimmer, Kunzmann) (GIZ) [NN]

Physiological respones of mangrove crabs and snails to heavy metal contamination (Zimmer) [V. Jäger]

Digestive enzymes in leaf-eating and sediment-sieving mangrove crabs (Zimmer) [A. Christovzik]

Functional traits of mangrove crabs and their spatial distribution (Helfer & Zimmer) [J. Pfeiffer, A. Hussaini]

Functional traits of mangrove snails and their spatial distribution (Helfer & Zimmer) [J. Riechelmann]

Functional traits of mangroves and their spatial distribution (Helfer & Zimmer) (ERASMUS) [C.Y. Cheung]

Effects of crab burrows and tidal pumping on organic matter fluxes in mangrove sediments (Zimmer & Moosdorf) [M. Klaaßen]

Effects of mangrove species on sediment characteristics in Northern Brazil (Helfer, Geburzi & Zimmer) [M. Fouqueray]

Effects of mangrove tree species on sediment fauna and microbiota [Helfer, Geburzi & Zimmer]

Microbial communities I: Temporal dynamics of active microbial communities in mangrove sediments (San Andrés Island, Colombia) (ZMT) [Hassenrück & Helfer] 

ExManCoast - Exchange of organic matter between mangroves and coastal waters (Zimmer, Jennerjahn & Helfer) (ZMT) [M. Wölfelschneider]

CONNECT - Mangrove connectivity with the hinterland: element fluxes and animal migration (Zimmer) (PADDLE) [G. Abuchahla]

ReMainMan - organic matter sediment dynamics in mangrove forest gaps (Zimmer, Helfer, Mackay, Weerts & Protázio) (DAAD) [M.K. Agyekum]

Effects of crabs and snails on organic matter-fluxes in porewater (Zimmer & Wölfelschneider) (ZMT) [J. Riechelmann]

Mangroves, seagrass beds and sea turtles (Helfer, Zimmer & Piovano) [M.A. Camargo Vargas]