Mapping the Mangroves - MWL


There are five different species of mangroves. The ability to identify and differentiate between the different species is the first step in understanding mangroves and the role they play in the environment. We will make use of a dichotomous key for species identification. The dichotomous key is a series of two part questions that focuses on characteristics that break large groups of species into smaller groups, eventually identifying an individual based on a defining characteristic. The individual is then named according to scientific nomenclature.


  • Students will be able to identify the various species of Mangroves and understand their characteristics by construction and use of a dichotomous key.
  • Students will learn how scientific names are created. 

Teaching Summary

The activity can be approached in a number of different ways; students can work from a premade key (found below) and images found on the internet, or students can make their own keys to be used by fellow classmates. The first approach would be considered introductory to the idea, while the second is more advanced, especially when done correctly. The key below focuses on trunks and roots; other keys could focus on leaves, location in an estuary, or any combination of characteristics.

Download: Lesson1Key.tiff

Vocabulary:  Dichotomous Key, Nomenclature, Genus, Species, Prop Roots, Pneumatophores, Buttress Roots


Google images for mangrove root and trunk pictures

Assessment Questions


  1. What is the key concept behind a dichotomous key that allows it to function correctly?
  2. What is the purpose of a scientific name as opposed to a common name?
  3. Why are looking at colors not the best way for identifying mangroves?


  1. Defining characteristics and unique features allow for a group to be broken down and a particular individual to be identified.
  2. Scientific name is in Latin, consists of two parts(genus and species), is universally used by scientists, and there is one per individual; where as a common name can be multiple languages, not universally recognized, multiple names per individual.
  3. There are no distinct red, white, or black coloration on the mangroves that would allow for identification.
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