Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Mangroves Threatened by Sea Level Rise Could Disappear by 2050

Climate
Residents plant mangroves on the coast of West Aceh District in Indonesia on Feb. 21, 2020. Mangroves play a crucial role in stabilizing the coastline, providing protection from storms, waves and tidal erosion. Dekyon Eon / Opn Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.


However, they are under threat from sea level rise. A new study found that if emissions continue unabated, mangroves will not be able to keep up and could disappear in 30 years, as The Verge reported.

The new study published in the journal Science found that mangroves will start to die out if sea levels rise just six millimeters per year. However, 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, according to a Rutgers University statement.

"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 at Rutgers University, in the statement. "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."

Around the world, there are 80 different species of mangrove trees. All of them grow in warm, shallow, coastal waters around the tropics. They spread their roots in sediment that is under the water, while their upper trunks, branches and leaves are above the water. The forests usually flood twice a day during high tide, according to Newsweek.

They play a crucial role in stabilizing the coastline, providing protection from storms, waves, and tidal erosion. Their root systems provide a habitat for fish and other animals, according to Newsweek. Mangrove forests work their magic by pulling freshwater from salty seawater to serve as a nursery for fish, crustaceans and shellfish. But if their roots are completely submerged for too long, the mangroves will drown.

As The Verge noted, mangrove forests are a boon to people and the planet, which is why scientists in Florida have sought to use mangroves as a defense for coastal communities from the ravages of the climate crisis. However, for mangroves to help us, we will first need to help them.

"We have an opportunity here to take action and to keep the rates of sea level rise below these critical thresholds, which is part of the reason that this is an important study," says Ashe, as The Verge reported.

To figure out just how much sea level rise was too much for the mangroves, Ashe and her colleagues, led by Neil Saintilan from Macquarie University in Australia, examined sediment core samples from 78 locations around the world. Those samples shed light on how mangroves responded to past changes in the rate of sea level rise, which went from more than 10 millimeters (0.39 inches) per year nearly 10,000 years ago to almost stable around 4,000 years later, as Newsweek reported. They discovered that mangrove ecosystems only developed when rates of sea level rise dropped below about 7 millimeters a year.

"There was good news and bad news. The good news was that mangroves were clearly capable of surviving much higher rates of sea-level rise than we have around the world at present," Saintilan told Newsweek. "There were many examples where mangroves were able to keep pace with sea-level rise of 5 millimeters per year; the current rate is just over 3 millimeters per year."

"However, there was little evidence that mangroves could keep pace with sea-level rise of over 7 millimeters per year, and this threshold was lower for mangroves on coral reef settings, which failed to keep pace with sea-level rise above 5 millimeters per year. If the rate of sea-level rise doubles, mangroves are in serious trouble," he added.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Activists of Greenpeace and Fridays For Future demonstrate on a canal in front of the cooling tower of the coal-fired power plant Datteln 4 of power supplier Uniper in Datteln, western Germany, on May 20. INA FASSBENDER / AFP / Getty Images

The Bundestag and Bundesrat — Germany's lower and upper houses of parliament — passed legislation on Friday that would phase out coal use in the country in less than two decades as part of a road map to reduce carbon emissions.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Tara Lohan

Would you like to take a crack at solving climate change? Or at least creating a road map of how we could do it?

Read More Show Less
Climate campaigners and Indigenous peoples across Canada have spent the past several years protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline. Mark Klotz / Flickr / cc

By Elana Sulakshana

Rainforest Action Network recently uncovered a document that lists the 11 companies that are currently insuring the controversial Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline in Canada. These global insurance giants are providing more than USD$500 million in coverage for the massive risks of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, and they're also lined up to cover the expansion project.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Leah Campbell

After several months of stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many households are beginning to experience family burnout from spending so much time together.

Read More Show Less
Food Tank

By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz

With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the U.S. recycling industry. Waste sources, quantities and destinations are all in flux, and shutdowns have devastated an industry that was already struggling.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Pixabay

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

Unhealthy foods play a primary role in many people gaining weight and developing chronic health conditions, more now than ever before.

Read More Show Less