Man­groves ‘died of thirst’, says JCU

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS -

A James Cook Univer­sity sci­en­tist has dis­cov­ered why there was an un­prece­dented dieback of man­groves in the Gulf of Car­pen­taria in early 2016 – the plants died of thirst.

Dr Nor­man Duke, leader of JCU’s Man­grove Re­search hub, headed an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mas­sive man­grove dieback. The sci­en­tists used ae­rial ob­ser­va­tions and satel­lite map­ping data of the area dat­ing back to 1972, com­bined with weather and cli­mate records.

Dr Duke said they found three fac­tors came to­gether to pro­duce the un­prece­dented dieback of 7400 hectares of man­groves, which stretched for 1000 kilo­me­tres along the Gulf coast.

“From 2011 the coast­line had ex­pe­ri­enced be­low-av­er­age rain­falls, and the 2015-16 drought was par­tic­u­larly se­vere. Sec­ondly the tem­per­a­tures in the area were at record lev­els and thirdly some man­groves were left high and dry as the sea level dropped about 20cm dur­ing a par­tic­u­larly strong El Nino.”

Dr Duke says this was enough to pro­duce what sci­en­tists re­gard as the largest recorded in­ci­dent of its kind, and the worst in­stance of likely cli­mate-re­lated dieback of man­groves ever re­ported.

“Essen­tially, they died of thirst,” he said.

Dr Duke said sci­en­tists now know that man­groves, like coral reefs, are vul­ner­a­ble to changes in cli­mate and ex­treme weather events.

In­dige­nous ranger mon­i­tors man­grove dieback along the Gulf of Car­pen­taria coast

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