Hello Warming, Goodbye Mangroves?

How climate change is altering the mangrove ecosystem

Climate Change

As average temperature of the globe continues to rise, global climate change is becoming ever more apparent. This increase in temperature is mostly attributed to the human-caused increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Gases like Co2 and Methane are increasing the greenhouse effect on the Earth. The greenhouse effect acts like a blanket. When gasses in the atmosphere trap the Sun's energy close to the surface of the Earth (rather than having the energy reflected out), this causes an increase in temperature. Therefore, more greenhouse gases have a larger warming effect.

The Earth's average temperature has risen an average of 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century. This seemingly small rise in temperature is causing monumental changes to both weather and climate, a strong contrast to our normally stable climate. Severe droughts and floorings, longer and more severe droughts are occurring because climate change has disturbed weather patterns. There has also been changed in ocean salinity, reduction in the ice caps, and rising sea levels. As the climate continues to change, its impact on wildlife is becoming ever more apparent.

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Focus: Mangrove Forests

A Vital Ecosystem

Mangrove forest are a diverse and vital ecosystem. Mangrove forest consist of trees and shrubs situated in the area between the land and sea or the 'coastal intertidal zone.' Mangrove forests stabilize this area with their stilt-like roots. Mangrove roots create an perfect habitat for many species of fish and birds. In South Florida, more than 90% of commercial fish depend on Mangrove forests for survival. There are over 80 species of Mangroves all of which live in tropical or subtropical zones. These frosts protect beaches from storm surges, improve water quality, protect against erosion, and provide an essential habitat for wildlife in tropical climates.

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to Mangrove forests, and ironically, Mangrove forests are many island nations best hope to combat the horrifying effects of rising sea levels due to climate change. When seas levels rise, Mangrove forests are slowly swept out to sea. A UNEP study shows that up to 13 per cent of the Pacific region's mangroves could disappear as sea levels rise because the forests' natural response — to retreat further inland — is blocked by natural features and man-made obstructions, such as sea walls and settlements (ScidevNet). As sea levels rise and ocean salinity changes, the threats to Mangrove forests are growing. If Mangrove forest continue to diminish, their absence will have huge effects on tropical island nations, not only economically, but also environmentally. The destruction of Mangrove forests will alsoexacerbating the effects of global climate change on that area.

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Nicole Mullen p. 7