This study assessed the changes in extent of fringing mangrove located in Punta Mala Bay, Panama in relation to coastal development over a period of two decades. Punta Mala Bay was chosen for this study, due to its social importance and its biological significance, as it is one of the few mangrove areas left around Panama City. Fieldwork confirmed the importance of Laguncularia racemosa in the bay, which formed nearly monospecific stands with a large number of seedlings indicating that the forest was rejuvenating. The mangrove was mapped from 1980 to 2002 using digitised aerial photographs and a GIS was used to determine the location and rates of mangrove growth and loss before and after the construction of a road and water treatment works in 1998. The land use maps were produced with an overall accuracy of 83.8%. The user's accuracy of the maps for L. racemosa dominated stands was 89.7%, although the producer's accuracy was lower due to the omission of seedlings on intertidal areas. It was found that the mangrove was spatially dynamic and had grown substantially in the bay at a rate ranging from 6 to 215% per year until the construction commenced. Between 1997 and 2002 there were 100% loss of mangrove in some areas due to the coastal development. The resilience of the dominant species L. racemosa at this locality was shown by the continued growth of two mangrove zones during the construction period 1997-2002, with one zone increasing in area by 61%. The pioneering ability of L. racemosa after disturbance was demonstrated by the development of two new mangrove zones of 498 and 1254 m2on bare intertidal areas after construction finished. Future mapping and fieldwork could provide information on the development of mangrove communities and their response to reoccurring human impacts. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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