This work analyses effects of recent variations in the tidal inundation frequency in a mangrove ecosystem in the Bragança peninsula, North Brazil, and its implications for land occupation and use. Field data, time series of remote sensing images and local legislation were analysed focusing on the potential socio-economic impact of a changing environmental setting due to a rise in relative sea level. In the investigated period (1972–1997), vegetation changes along the coastline indicate net losses of mangrove coverage. In the central part of the peninsula, a topographically higher herbaceous plain constituting part of a farm presents an active progression of mangrove forest into an area previously dominated by grasses and herbs. This area measured 8.8 km2 in 1972 but was gradually reduced to 5.6 km2 in 1997, while progressively replaced by a monospecific stand of the black mangrove, Avicennia germinans. A linear extrapolation indicates that the elevated plain may be completely covered by mangrove by 2035. Current Brazilian legislation prohibits the extraction of mangrove trees without an officially approved management plan. Thus, the usable area of the farm has suffered a reduction by ca. 36% over 25 yr and we predict that it could be entirely replaced by mangroves in the next 35 yr. In this case study, legislation and ecosystem characteristics are analysed and a management plan discussed which could represent income alternatives for affected resource users at the local and regional level.