Seminar Details

How climate change might affect mangrove distributions, with a focus on the Red Sea




Dr. Ruth Reef - The University of Cambridge, UK


Mangrove forests are remarkable in their ability to grow on saline, periodically flooded soils of the tropical and subtropical coasts and provide a plethora of ecosystem services. The tree species that compose the mangrove are halophytes that have suites of traits that confer differing levels of tolerance of salinity, aridity, inundation and extremes of temperature. Here I present our experimental results testing how climate change and elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 affect the mangrove fundamental niche. Because temperature and aridity place strong limits on mangrove growth at the edge of their current distribution, changes to the temperature and salinity niche of mangroves, coupled with increasing temperatures over time and changing rainfall patterns are likely to have an important influence on the distribution of mangroves, including in the Red Sea. Red Sea mangrove forests are some of the northern most in the world and are typically thin stands of stunted Avicennia marina, restricted to sheltered areas where surface run-off is deposited (e.g. river mouths). Human alteration of the coastline, such as the creation of canals and lagoons can create suitable physiographic settings for mangrove establishment and could lead to further expansion in the region. However, additional factors need to be considered, including the anticipated impact of sea-level rise on source populations, the direction of the prevailing currents which deliver the seaborne reproductive units, and human intervention through mangrove introductions.

To Seminar List