A recent global review on the impacts of climate change on mangroves concluded that different regions will experience varying degrees of impacts due to the variability of expected changes in climate (shifts in precipitation, frequency and intensity of storms, droughts, sea level rise, change of ocean currents, increases in CO2 concentrations, etc.) and the variety of types and mangrove assemblages growing in these regions, including different species composition of mangrove forests. In North America and the Caribbean, these changes are dependent upon a predicted higher frequency (and intensity) of tropical storms, sea level rise, changes in patterns of precipitation, and higher temperatures. Located at the land-sea interface, mangroves in this region are expected to expand their ranges poleward (towards North Florida), or migrate into other coastal ecosystems (e.g., the Everglades), provided no natural or urban center barriers are present to prevent this expansion. If rains increase, as is anticipated, along the United States-Mexico border, mangroves may likely begin to thrive in places currently occupied by unvegetated salt flats. However, a lack of rain may also be of benefit in areas such as Louisiana where marsh diebacks have been linked to droughts, which directly increases the likelihood of mangrove migrations into these ecosystems.
Given the services that mangroves provide and the legal protections that mangroves receive, it is shocking to discover that their future existence may be compromised or threatened. Certainly, the greatest threats to mangroves in Florida are from direct and indirect human impacts of development, including pollution and habitat destruction. Mangroves may also be naturally damaged and destroyed from disturbance events such as tropical storms and hurricanes. However, a new threat to native mangroves has recently emerged: the introduction of invasive mangrove species. These non-native species may threaten the ecosystem dynamics of mangrove forests and may alter the natural coastal landscape of South Florida unless eradicated.
Recommended CitationKelly J. Cox and Rafael J. Araújo, Friends or Foes? The Problem of South Florida’s Invasive Mangroves, 34 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 463 (2017)
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