Cissell, J.R., and M.K. Steinberg. 2018. Mapping forty years of mangrove cover trends and their implications for flats fisheries in Ciénaga de Zapata, Cuba. Environmental Biology of Fishes. DOI: 10.1007/s10641-018-0809-0.
The mangrove forests of Ciénaga de Zapata, Cuba, support populations of bonefish (Albula vulpes), tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), permit (Trachinotus falcatus), and common snook (Centropomus undecimalis) that play key roles in the local sport fishing industry. Despite their importance, no published work has documented changes in these mangroves’ extent throughout the past four decades. This project used unsupervised classification of Landsat imagery to quantify areal changes in Zapata’s mangrove forests from 1974 to 2017. Results demonstrated a 6.48% decrease in mangrove area over the course of the entire study period. However, rates of mangrove change were not uniformly distributed. The most substantial decrease in mangrove extent occurred when Hurricane Michelle struck Zapata in November 2001, reducing mangrove area by 5.56%. Between 2002 and 2014, Zapata’s mangrove extent increased by 5.03%, demonstrating the resilience of the peninsula’s mangrove forest to hurricane disturbance. Results suggest that Zapata’s national park designation has largely protected its mangroves from anthropogenic destruction, and that hurricane disturbance has been a more substantial driver of change in this important coastal ecosystem. The resilience of Zapata’s mangroves to natural hurricane disturbance and their minimal exposure to anthropogenic disturbance offer encouraging evidence for the continued conservation of Zapata’s flats fisheries.