Credits: David Clode on unsplash
Our team has unveiled the future of one of the Earth’s most vital ecosystems – mangrove forests. Over the past half-century, human activities have led to the disappearance of approximately one-third of the world’s mangrove forests and the invaluable ecosystem services they provide.
We have focused on the potential impacts of climate change on these coastal wonders. The study estimates the future changes in the extent and aboveground biomass (AGB) of mangrove forests on a global scale. By considering different climate scenarios, we have shed light on what the future holds for these crucial ecosystems.
Anthropogenic activities have taken a toll on mangrove forests, endangering their existence and the myriad benefits they offer to both coastal communities and the planet as a whole. The synergy of projected climate change only compounds these challenges. Whether it’s range expansions due to warming at higher latitudes or large-scale diebacks linked to severe droughts, the future of mangroves is at a crossroads. To provide a comprehensive view of the potential future, we utilized advanced modeling techniques. We examined a range of factors, including air temperature, precipitation, wave energy, slope, and distance to river deltas, to predict mangrove occurrences and aboveground biomass. the models, validated against present-day data, accurately estimated a total area of 12,780,356 hectares and an overall biomass of 2.29 petagrams, aligning with previous estimates.
The research projections offer intriguing insights into the future. The models predict poleward shifts in temperate regions, resulting in gains in total mangrove area, regardless of the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenario considered. Under RCP 2.6, area changes are estimated at 17.29%, while under RCP 8.5, they reach 15.77%. However, the real divergence emerges in biomass changes, closely tied to the emission scenario. Under RCP 2.6, mangrove biomass remains stable or even increases, with an overall change of 12.97%. In contrast, under RCP 8.5, severe biomass losses are projected across tropical regions, with an overall change of -11.51%.
The study emphasizes the urgent need to address the future of mangrove forests, especially in countries located in the Tropical Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, and the Western and Eastern Indo-Pacific regions. These regions face losses above approximately 20% in overall biomass, highlighting the potential consequences of inaction. Overall, the research underscore the pivotal role of international agreements such as the Paris Agreement, with broad compliance with climate goals may counteract severe trajectories of mangrove loss, offering a glimmer of hope for these unique ecosystems.