Mangrove
as Habitat

Australia’s mangroves and the zone they occupy are used by numerous plants and animals. The biota living in the tidal zone above mean sea level do so because: either, mangroves are there; or, they replace mangroves, or, they are associates. Epiphytes perch on mangroves and flourish in northern wet areas. Mistletoes parasitize mangrove foliage and occur in northern areas also. Saltmarsh species at times replace mangroves, notably in cooler southern areas, as well as in drier places generally. A multitude of animals depend on mangroves for a variety of reasons for shelter, food, breeding and nursery needs.

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Mangroves as Habitat

Orchid epiphyte in flower.

Ant plant

Spiny ant plant, Mymercodia antonii.

Orchid apyphyte

Epiphytic fern and orchids.

Living on Mangroves - Epiphytes & Others

Australia’s mangroves contain a number of additional plants, including epiphytes, parasitic plants and fungi. Their presence in mangroves is often neglected with few studies that describe and quantify the presence of this important component of mangrove forests. For instance, an additional 42 species of epiphytic plants and 25 species of fungi were recently identified growing on Queensland mangrove plants. Common epiphytes in Australia’s mangroves include: orchids, ferns, lichens, mosses and ant plants. The numbers of epiphytes greatly increases in the wet tropical areas of northern Australia. In these areas, there are two common ant plants including: Myrmecodia beccarii (the Spiny Ant Plant), Hydnophytum formicarium (the Smooth Ant Plant). It is reported that the relationship between epiphyte and animal evolved in response to nutrient poor environments. In this case, the swollen, bulbous stems of the plants are honeycombed with tiny tunnels and galleries in which the ants live in blissful symbiosis. So the ants get a home, and the plants receive nutrients from the ants.

Mistletoes – parasites tapping into salty sap

Another notable group of mangrove associates are the mistletoes. Mistletoes occur on stems and branches of several mangrove species where they often mimic the leaves of their host. In contrast, flowers of the mistletoe are often unusually spectacular and showy in some cases, demonstrating their different pollinator strategies. For instance, there is no need for showy flowers in Rhizophora stylosa, the Long-styled Stilt Mangrove, since its flowers are wind pollinated. Mistletoe flowers are attractive to mistletoe birds that not only service the flowers and disperse pollen, but also eat the fleshy fruit and disperse the seeds. In fact, the sticky mistletoe seeds are difficult for the bird to defecate so it removes them by wiping its bottom against a branch – the best place for a new mistletoe to germinate and grow.

Community Volunteers

A key feature of MangroveWatch is its close partnership between community volunteers and scientists from the James Cook University’s Mangrove Hub. Together they are systematically recording basic data as video and still imagery for assessments of estuarine habitat health.

Armed with expert support, training and advice, MangroveWatch volunteers in key regions are actively contributing to the monitoring of local estuaries and shorelines. An important goal in this phase of the program is to develop a network of like minded groups with the aim of producing public documents that describe important issues affecting local estuaries and mangroves, and their overall health.

Getting Involved

If you would like to find out more about us or if you like to initiate your own MangroveWatch group within your area, please contact someone at the Mangrove Hub. We will be happy to help.

  • Mangrove Hub Facilitator
  • Dr Norm Duke
  • MangroveWatch Ltd
    ABN: 44 153 297 771
  • PO Box 1250,
  • Elanora Q 4221
  • Mangrove Hub Email

Mangrove Watch Brochure

You can download our fact and information sheet (see link below) to get more information about the MangroveWatch programs.

Mangrove Watch Brochure