Red mangrove die-off in The Marls catalyst for Abaco mangrove survey

Die-off of dwarf red mangrove trees in The Marls on Abaco, The Bahamas. PHOTO CREDIT: Ryann Rossi.
Die-off of dwarf red mangrove trees in The Marls on Abaco, The Bahamas. PHOTO CREDIT: Ryann Rossi.

By: Ryann Rossi, PhD. Student, Department of Applied Ecology, North Carolina State University

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to fish for bonefish on Abaco Island, then you have likely visited The Marls.  The area consists of hundreds of acres of shallow flats, with interspersed dwarf red mangrove trees.  These mangroves are critical to the health of The Marls, for example, they stabilize sediment and prevent erosion, especially during large storms.  The trees are also critical habitat for many aquatic and terrestrial species.

Unfortunately, some areas in The Marls have experienced a large-scale die-off of mangroves. There are several potential reasons for die-off, including hurricane impacts, insect grazing and plant disease. We are working now to isolate which factor(s) are primarily responsible.

One possible driver may be related to leaf lesions we have observed in many areas of The Marls. These lesions lead us to believe that a plant pathogen may be involved. As a result, we are planning an island-wide mangrove survey to help identify other locations where leaf lesions may be present. We hope to have many people participate in order to map the extent of the lesions throughout Abaco and beyond. The Island-wide survey will begin the first week of June. At each location participants will be asked to record a GPS point, take photographs of the site and leaves, and perform a survey noting whether leaf lesions were observed. Participants can submit the data they collect electronically via the Abaco Scientist Blog ( or turn in a paper data sheet to Friends of the Environment. Details can be found on the Abaco Scientist blog  or on the Abaco Mangrove Survey Facebook page (

Friends of the Environment is a non-profit environmental organizations devoted to preserving Abaco’s fragile environment and working towards a more sustainable future. For more information, visit, call (242) 367-2721 or email