BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The mangrove Rhizophora mucronata has previously been reported to lack annual growth rings, thus barring it from dendrochronological studies. In this study the reported absence of the growth rings was reconsidered and the periodic nature of light and dark brown layers visible on polished stem discs investigated. In addition, the formation of these layers in relation to prevailing environmental conditions, as well as their potential for age determination of the trees, was studied.
METHODS: Trees of known age were collected and a 2.5-year cambial marking experiment was conducted to determine the periodic nature of the visible growth layers.
KEY RESULTS: Annual indistinct growth rings were detected in R. mucronata and are defined by a low vessel density earlywood and a high vessel density latewood. The formation of these growth rings and their periodic nature was independent from site-specific environmental conditions in two forests along the Kenyan coast. However, the periodic nature of the rings was seriously affected by slow growth rates, allowing accurate age determination only in trees with radial growth rates above 0.5 mm year(-1). The onset of the formation of the low vessel density wood coincided with the onset of the long rainy season (April-May) and continues until the end of the short rainy season (November). The high vessel density wood is formed during the dry season (December-March). Age determination of the largest trees collected in the two studied forests revealed the relatively young age of these trees (+/-100 years).
CONCLUSIONS: This study reports, for the first time, the presence of annual growth rings in the mangrove R. mucronata, which offers further potential for dendrochronological and silvicultural applications.
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