Mangroves neutralize destructive storm energy as coastal buffers, preventing erosion and storm surge. They foster animals’ feeding and breeding energies within the mangrove ecosystem. They act as biological filters that administer the energy exchange between the upland areas and daily tides. By moving into new regions, mangroves work together with salt marshes to enhance the coastline’s protective energies to better mitigate sea-level rise.

As mangroves grow, they also absorb carbon dioxide and other climate change-caused greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. These energies are converted by the mangroves to organic matter and trapped in the soil below. The stored energy is known as blue carbon, and by growing quickly and decomposing slowly, mangroves store more of it, on a per-area basis, than any other type of forest on earth.

Ecotones are transition areas between biological communities, where the communities meet and integrate. Occuring at many spatial and time scales, they are characterized by abrupt and sharp physical and biological transitions. Different forms of energy create a combination of positive and negative feedback loops that leads to the existence of bistability between the multiple ecosystems, resulting in alternative stable states. In other words, the threshold in between, or ecotone, is the visual manifestation of different biological communities’ unseen energies.

Increasing Salinity

Although not competitive in freshwater, mangroves can move into freshwater tree habitats by increasing the salinity of the surrounding soil. During the dry season when there isn't much freshwater precipitation, mangroves increase their plant water uptake from the vadose zone. And the saline water will infiltrate and saturate the vadose zone with the saltwater below. 

Mangroves take the water laterally from neighboring cells which allows it to turn a freshwater tree’s cell, which is surrounded by mangrove cells, into its own. Upland trees also have a similar mechanism to decrease the salinity in neighboring cells in reverse logic.

This gamified simulation abstracts the dynamic energies between abiotic environmental changes. The simulation helps players better understand how the mangroves’ and upland trees' energies will eventually self organize into resilient bi-stability through a positive feedback loop by clustering even in soil with no salinity gradient. Players strategize the placement of trees in the mangrove and upland-tree ecotone into the most effective pattern to take full advantage of the abiotic changes to move in.

Nurse Plant Effect

Mangroves drop seeds called Propagules, which utilizes tidal energy to move. Many times they end up near the parent tree, or they can be taken away by large storms to a new location.

Winter climate extremes limit mangrove’s global distribution, but their nocturnal warming mechanism keeps them resilient to the changes in temperature. Mangroves typically survive at temperatures above 66° Fahrenheit or 19° celsius and they can't tolerate temperatures below freezing for any length of time.

Therefore, Mangroves found in colder environments tend to grow shorter and denser than the average mangrove, which helps protect their propagules. This self-organized behavior helps them create a collective canopy that generates a warmer microclimate by trapping the thermal energy released from the ground at night. When the fully grown mangroves die off during winter , nocturnal warming continues to protect mangrove propagules from the deadly freezes. 

Just as birds and fish take turns leading their flock or school, mangroves also decentralize their members to take turns nursing and raising the propagules. This energy increases their resilience to the freeze and their movement laterally along the coast.

Soil Surface Elevation

Mangroves have adaptive energies that are heavily involved in soil surface elevation processes which allow them to keep up with the local sea-level rise.

During slack tide, mangrove roots, trunks, and actions caused by animals living in the mangrove structural habitat trap sediment and create turbulence to form sediment flocs in the water. The roots and trunks also help to bind the sediment into a solid-state. Microbes living in the built-up soil beneath the mangroves feed on litter mats made from fallen leaves and tree limbs. The bi-product of this process forms sticky benthic mats, which sediment gets caught on, leading to more soil accretion. Mangrove roots and trunks also increase soil’s shear strength, decrease tide’s hydraulic stress to prevent the ground from erosion, and increase soil volume through root growth.

Since the positive feedback loop of sediment accretion takes place over a long period of time, a rocking table was built to simulate this process. Closely placed wooden dowels represent the mangrove’s dense roots and trunks structure, while the moving fluid plaster caused by the rocking table mimics the ocean tides. Interesting typography started to form as each plaster layer goes through a turbulent flow, trickling through the roots and hardening. While more layers of plaster need to be applied to have a more noticeable result, this model allows us to understand how mangrove roots would trap and bind more and more sediment over time.

The mangrove uses self-organizational energy to increase the soil's salinity to intrude into the upland. Its decentralized community can create a positive feedback loop to gain resilience to winter freeze and move into latitudes where salt marshes replace mangroves. Its adaptiveness to sea level rise helps it move vertically while creating a structural hotspot for biodiversity. These are all subtle but effective energies that help mangroves take full advantage of the abiotic conditions and disturbances beyond their typical global limits.

Possible Correlations between the mangrove forest ecotone and the future city can be categorized into site programs, social interactions, and spatial mediums:


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