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The ten most popular mangrove species

There are over 70 true mangrove species in the world, but I have read a lot more about some than others. I was curious if that’s because I’m focusing mainly on species common in the Pearl River Delta (south China), or because some species just get more attention than others. So I thought, let’s figure it out!

I did two searches in Google Scholar:

  1. Pasting the species name “” + mangrove (i.e. “Avicennia marina” mangrove)
  2. Using the special search function ‘allintitle’, where you only get the papers where the species name is in the title (i.e. allintitle: “Avicennia marina”). I also turned of citations and patents.

I noted the down the total number of hits google found (at the top under the search bar, for example: “About 996 results (0.03 sec)”).

…and the winner is!

Avicennia marina and Rhizophora mangle are clearly the most popular species in the scientific literature. They are by far the most common in both searches.

Below is a top 10 for the total number of literature hits for each species:

And here the results for papers that mention the species in their title. Funnily enough, the two searches do not return entirely the same top 10:

Laguncularia racemosa and Sonneratia alba get kicked out of the top 10 by newcomers Nypa fruticans and Acanthus ilicifolius! (Obviously this top 10 is completely arbitrary and you can find the results for all species at the bottom of this post.)

I don’t think listing papers that state the species in the title is entirely representative, because from experience I know that a lot of papers don’t actually state the species they worked on in the title, especially if they are multiple species. But it’s fun to compare :)

Common in literature = common on Earth?

Avicennia marina is a very common pioneer species accross the Eastern hemisphere and the same goes for Rhizophora mangle in the Western hemisphere, so I am not surprised it is so common in the scientific literature. I wondered if this correlation also exists for other species, so I plotted the number of publications that mentions a species (method 1) against global commonness, which I am conveniently defining here as number of gridcells modelled in Record et al. 2013 (they describe 24 out of the 74 species in my list):

If it was a linear relationship (the red line in the plots), you could say that Avicennia marina and Rhizophora mangle actually get a little bit more attention than they deserve. And poor Laguncularia racemosa and Avicennia germinans, a bit underappreciated! Rhizophora mucronata actually gets almost the same amount of hits, but is nowhere near as common. I wonder what’s up with that.

Now let’s zoom a little because it’s quite crowded in that bottom corner.

I think all in all we can say that when you are really not very common, chances are you don’t get written about much. The species with less than 1000 hits all have less than 50 gridcells. Although it doesn’t work the other way around: Sonneratia apetala for example has barely any gridcells but over 2500 hits. I guess you gotta be lucky if you wanna get famous (or suspiciously invasive).

Finally, as promised, the complete list of species and hits in google scholar:

You can find the full dataset here: species-googlescholarhits.csv. This also includes the list of species I used and the spelling of the names I used.

Hope this was interesting. I actually had quite bit of fun familiarising myself with the diversity of mangrove species (3 more years to go on my PhD, let’s see if I can find them all in the field…).