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Wed Aug 14, 2019, 06:08 PM

Rising Seas Could Speed Up Loss of Florida Mangroves, Study Finds

WJCT Public Media
August14, 2019

Four thousand years ago, rising seas decimated huge swaths of mangroves in Florida Bay.
Today, seas rising at a far greater rate, combined with increasing storms and drought, could lead to another catastrophic loss of mangroves that help keep the state from sliding into the sea, according to a new study published by the U.S. Geological Survey in the journal Nature Communications. This was surprising because mangroves are thought to be relatively resilient to sea level rise," said Miriam Jone, a USGS geologist and lead author for the study.

Mangroves serve as a critical link between the land and sea, helping to stabilize the coastline while protecting it against violent storm surges generated by hurricanes. Mangrove forests also suck up tons of carbon from the atmosphere, providing a carbon sink for the state valued at between $2 billion and $3.4 billion.

But scientists fear they are coming under increasing threat, from both development and impacts from climate change. About half the planet's mangroves have disappeared. After Hurricane Irma, NASA researchers during aerial surveys discovered about 40 percent of mangroves in Everglades National Park had been damaged. Mangroves have evolved to withstand hurricanes, so they expected them to bounce back. But when they returned three months later, they were suprised to find how little of the forest had recovered.

In the Caribbean, mangroves have fared better where ecoystems were healthier... "We know that mangroves can be resilient under high rates of sea level rise, but it also depends on how healthy the ecosystem is," Jones said.
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