Important considerations to achieve successful mangrove forest restoration with optimum fish habitat
Mangrove forest restoration projects commonly fail to achieve significant plant cover for two reasons: because there is a misunderstanding of mangrove forest hydrology, or, acceptance of the false assumption that simply planting mangroves is all that is required to establish a fully-functional mangrove ecosystem. Even restoration projects that meet a restoration goal within 3–5 yrs often fail to provide adequate habitat for fish and invertebrates. Here we discuss how fish and mangrove ecosystems are coupled in time and space, offer several restoration strategies that match these couplings, and provide simple sequential checklist of design tasks to use to prevent most failures. Tidal hydrology must be carefully designed to incorporate fish habitat, including tidal creeks, to provide access and low tide refuge for mobile nekton because the mangrove forest floor is generally flooded by tidal waters less than 30 percent of the time. A fully successful restoration design must mimic tidal stream morphology and hydrology along an estuarine gradient across a heterogeneous mixture of mangrove ecosystem communities.