1 We characterized the dispersal potential and early growth traits of 14 tr
opical mangrove species in experiments where diaspores were immersed in var
ious solutions of seawater and subsequently stranded onto surfaces with the
2 Viviparous and non-viviparous species had similar buoyancy, seed weight a
nd rates of root and shoot initiation, as well as early growth and salinity
tolerance. This trait convergence may be related to selection against smal
l, dormant diaspores in the unstable regeneration niche.
3 Differences in dispersal potential and early growth of 12 species were co
mpared with known patterns of distribution (across the shore, along estuari
es, regional occurrence and continental range size) to test if tidal sortin
g of diaspores could account for adult spatial patterns.
4 Diaspore buoyancy, orientation, lateral root initiation, shoot initiation
and early shoot extension differed among species but none correlated with
adult zonation across the shore or along estuaries. However, some back-shor
e species had diaspores that were buoyant and were slow to initiate lateral
roots and shoots. Patterns of early growth were partially related to the d
istribution along estuaries but salinity responses contributed to this zona
tion in only three species.
5 Regional distributions were unrelated to dispersal potential. However, th
e tendency of infrequent species to show slow growth in full seawater may a
ccount for the under-saturation of species in estuaries with appropriate ha
bitats. The range size of the tropical mangroves appears unrelated to their
dispersal potential and early growth traits.
6 Early life history traits of 12 mangroves showed poor correlation with pa
tterns of adult distribution across all spatial scales. Traits related to e
stablishment were., however, stronger predictors of distribution than those
associated with dispersal.