Abstract

Of Brazil’s 7408 km of coastline 6786 km contain mangrove forests, covering some 25,000 km2. Only one coastal state, Rio Grande do Sul, lacks mangrove coverage. Mangroves occur from the border with French Guiana, just above the Equator (04°30′N) to well beyond the Tropic of Capricorn, reaching 28°30′S, near Laguna (Santa Catarina State).

Because the term mangrove may be applied to various levels of observation, specifying the proper spacio-temporal scale is important to describe system behavior. In this paper we describe a nested hierarchy of organization levels constituted of patches, stands, settings, coastal segments and large marine ecosystems. Each of these describes an organization that has evolved to facilitate energy dissipation at its relevant scale, and can be related to a geographic unit.

We expect that the framework presented here will be useful for the study of mangrove ecosystem health, assessment of ecosystem pathology, and the development of models for the management and conservation of this resource.

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