Mangroves could survive sea-level rise if protected

Mangroves could survive sea-level rise if protected
Mangrove trees along a coastline, Everglades National Park. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Human activity is currently a bigger threat to mangroves, and the natural defences they provide against storm surges and other coastal disasters, than rising sea levels, according to a new study.
Mangroves, which provide a natural coastal defence to communities around the world, may be able to withstand a future rise in sea levels far more than previously thought, scientists have found.
Their report should serve to allay fears that many mangrove areas could be lost in the coming decades as sea levels go up because of global warming.
It comes, however, with a cautionary note: The authors, who have carried out a rare and detailed survey of how mangroves adapt to their environment, also argue that it is vital that they are managed and conserved so that they can continue to provide this protection.
The survey warns that human activity on land – such as the damming up of rivers or the felling of trees to create shrimp ponds – is currently a far greater threat to many mangrove habitats than the effects of climate change on sea level.
Mangroves – trees and shrubs which grow in saltwater, coastal environments – play a critical role in protecting thousands of shoreline communities in tropical and subtropical regions from floods, storms, and other hazards.
Their densely-packed, overground root systems can absorb wave energy and reduce the velocity of a sudden surge of water. In the 2004 tsunami, for example, mangroves were sometimes the difference between life and death for people whose homes lay in the path of the giant waves which crashed into shorelines around South Asia.
Mangroves could survive sea-level rise if protected
For some time, scientists have been concerned that if sea levels rise as predicted, they will kill off mangroves – removing these natural coastal defences at the very time they are expected to be needed most.
(This is a copy)