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Is Climate Change Shifting the Poleward Limit of Mangroves?


Ecological (poleward) regime shifts are a predicted response to climate change and have been well documented in terrestrial and more recently ocean species. Coastal zones are amongst the most susceptible ecosystems to the impacts of climate change, yet studies particularly focused on mangroves are lacking. Recent studies have highlighted the critical ecosystem services mangroves provide, yet there is a lack of data on temporal global population response. This study tests the notion that mangroves are migrating poleward at their biogeographical limits across the globe in line with climate change. A coupled systematic approach utilising literature and land surface and air temperature data was used to determine and validate the global poleward extent of the mangrove population. Our findings indicate that whilst temperature (land and air) have both increased across the analysed time periods, the data we located showed that mangroves were not consistently extending their latitudinal range across the globe. Mangroves, unlike other marine and terrestrial taxa, do not appear to be experiencing a poleward range expansion despite warming occurring at the present distributional limits. Understanding failure for mangroves to realise the global expansion facilitated by climate warming may require a focus on local constraints, including local anthropogenic pressures and impacts, oceanographic, hydrological, and topographical conditions.

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This work was supported by the CSIRO Flagship Marine and Coastal Carbon Biogeochemical Cluster (Coastal Carbon Cluster) with funding from the CSIRO Flagship Collaboration Fund.

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Correspondence to Sharyn M. Hickey.

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Communicated by Cathleen Wigand

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Hickey, S.M., Phinn, S.R., Callow, N.J. et al. Is Climate Change Shifting the Poleward Limit of Mangroves?. Estuaries and Coasts 40, 1215–1226 (2017).

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  • Climate change
  • Global change
  • Mangroves
  • Range shifts
  • Temperature