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Mangrove Forests' Response to Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change

people exploring wetlands

Mangrove forests represent important habitat that incorporates characteristics of both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Climate change and associated sea-level rise (SLR) stand to alter these important ecosystems, yet the potential response in Florida mangroves is poorly understood. Thus, it remains difficult to identify appropriate management priorities and develop meaningful adaptation strategies.

Florida mangrove ecosystems and the species that rely on them for habitat would not exist without the organic carbon produced within them. Therefore, stability of these systems depends on burial of organic matter at a sufficient rate to allow accretion to keep pace with SLR or retreat landward where SLR out-paces sediment accretion. Thus, a scientific understanding of modern organic carbon burial and peat accretion rates, along with past response to sea-level rise is needed to prioritize management strategies to best manage and protect Florida’s mangrove forests (and the organisms that depend on them) from the threat of sea-level rise and climate change.

Researchers sitting in mangrove forest

To address this, core-based studies of mangrove peats will provide information on: 1) historical and modern rates of peat accretion in mangrove forests; 2) organic carbon content and burial rates within the mangrove peats; and 3) past sea-level history and ecosystem response to recent sea-level rise. Such information will allow the formulation of potential adaptation strategies to sea-level rise and climate change for mangrove ecosystems along their native range on the west coast of Florida from Florida Bay to Tampa Bay.