A bibliometrical review on pre- and posttsunami assumptions and facts about mangroves and other coastal vegetation as protective buffers

Jayatissa Loku Pulukkuttige, Farid Dahdouh-Guebas


Using the Web of Science® database (Institute of Science Information – ISI, Philadelphia, PA, USA) we analysed pre- (1972-2004) and post-tsunami (2005) clues about the protective buffer offered by mangroves and other coastal vegetation in peer-reviewed ISI-rated scientific literature.Apart from providing a literature review on the above topic, this study reveals that papers dealing with or suggesting the protective function of mangroves have been well represented in scientific literature since the 1970s. However, high-profile journals and their associated media engine tremendously failed to pick up the importance of the scientific findings related to mangrove ecosystems. Apparently, the tsunami strike of 26 December 2004 raised the status of mangrove research overnight, and to a level that was of immediate interest to researchers in a broad range of other disciplines, and thus fit for high-profile journals. However, the database showed a highly significant inverse relationship between the impact factor of the journals in which posttsunami mangrove papers were published and the pre-tsunami mangrove expertise of the authors. While suggesting that the above trend is worrying, we present a research framework that should receive much more attention in research in the future by many journals of low and high impact factor. In the light of mangroves and protection against a wide range of water-related impacts - not only tsunamis but also cyclones, sea-level rise, daily tidal action and heavy El-Niño rains - it should be investigated which type of mangrove formation or coast-geomorphological settings has which effect. Root type, vegetation structure and species composition are categories with a lot of variation within, and may be considered in parallel with for instance a lagoonsetting with a fringing forest. Detangling the effect of such complexity under various water-related impacts will allow fully exploring and understanding the power of mangroves and other coastal vegetation as protective buffers. These priorities in fundamental research should be considered in parallel with research and policy measures on the conservation and restoration of mangroves, taking into account links with the socio-economic reality of local communities.

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