Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences


Biological Sciences


Matt Ritter



Classifying and Mapping Diversity in a Species-Poor System: the mangrove meta-community of Laguna Chacahua National Park, Oaxaca, Mexico


Elizabeth Kay Weisgerber

Both field transects and imagery grid plots were analyzed with the goal of creating a community classification map for the mangrove forest of Parque Nacional Lagunas de Chacahua. In total, data was collected in 49 sites throughout the park, recording measures such as DBH, basal area, estimated dominance, frequency, cover and relative dominance. Field locations were marked and georeferenced with a GPS and grid plots overlaid on satellite imagery of the park were generated via a random number table. Species' attributes delineating the identifiable features for each dominant species within Chacahua were noted and used to recognize patterns in species assemblages.

Fourteen distinct ‘sub-communities’ within the mangrove meta-community were recognized using this data and verified with 165 field photos. Relative dominance values were compared between field and grid data. These data revealed a similar pattern with Rhizophora mangle being most dominant under each method. Avicennia germinans was second in relative dominance, Laguncularia racemosa a close third while Conocarpus erectus was rarely found, most likely due to over-harvesting.

Rapid degradation of mangrove forests is occurring on a global scale. Understanding the complex dynamics that occur within the mangrove meta-community is essential to its conservation. Vegetation maps are essential tool in monitoring changes throughout the mangrove but are rarely of sufficient detail for everyday use. Generating highly detailed vegetation maps in a cost-effective and timely manner is an important step for their conservation, particularly in developing countries. This study demonstrates methods and techniques for producing a vegetation map that portrays the level of complexity that exists within the species-poor mangrove environment. This map will be donated to the management team of Parque Nacional Lagunas de Chacahua to better aid in management.