Mangroves – Valuable Coastal Ecosystems – Won’t Survive Sea-Level Rise by 2050 if Emissions Aren’t Cut
Mangrove trees – valuable coastal ecosystems found in Florida and other warm climates – won’t survive sea-level rise by 2050 if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t reduced, according to a Rutgers co-authored study in the journal Science.
Mangrove forests store large amounts of carbon, help protect coastlines and provide habitat for fish and other species. Using sediment data from the last 10,000 years, an international team led by Macquarie University in Australia estimated the chances of mangrove survival based on rates of sea-level rise.
When rates exceeded 6 millimeters per year, similar to estimates under high-emissions scenarios for 2050, scientists found that mangroves were very likely to stop keeping pace with the rising water levels. Mangroves are more likely to survive when sea-level rise is less than 5 millimeters (about 0.2 inches) per year, which is projected for low-emissions scenarios this century.
“Under high-emissions scenarios, rates of sea-level rise on many tropical coastlines will exceed 7 millimeters per year, the rate at which we concluded there’s a 6.2 percent probability mangroves can sustain growth,” said co-author Erica Ashe, a post-doctoral scientist in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “The loss of these mangrove ecosystems could result in increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and fewer vital buffers against storm surges in the long run.”