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#496608 - 10/09/14 04:40 AM Mangroves, important to our environment  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,591
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Mangroves protecting corals from climate change

Certain types of corals, invertebrates of the sea that have been on Earth for millions of years, appear to have found a way to survive some of their most destructive threats by attaching to and growing under mangrove roots.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and Eckerd College recently published research on a newly discovered refuge for reef-building corals in mangrove habitats of the U.S. Virgin Islands. More than 30 species of reef corals were found growing in Hurricane Hole, a mangrove habitat within the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument in St. John.

Corals are animals that grow in colonies, forming reefs over time as old corals die and young corals grow upon the calcium carbonate or limestone skeletons of the old corals. Coral reefs make up some of the most biologically diverse habitats on Earth, and face many threats such as coastal pollution, dredging and disease. However, some of their most widespread threats involve warming ocean temperatures, solar radiation and increased ocean acidification.

It is from these threats that corals are finding refuge under the red mangroves of Hurricane Hole. Red mangroves, subtropical or tropical trees that colonize coastlines and brackish water habitats, have networks of prop roots that extend down toward the seafloor, and corals are growing on and under these roots.


How does it work?

Mangroves and their associated habitats and biological processes protect corals in a variety of ways.

  • The shade provided by mangroves protects the corals from high levels of solar radiation. This in turn, may reduce some of the stress caused by warming ocean waters.
  • A combination of chemical, biological and physical conditions around the mangrove habitats helps protect the corals by keeping acidity in the water below harmful levels. With oceans becoming more acidic due to the increased amount of carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere, ocean animals like corals are threatened by rising acidity levels, which can slow coral growth and impact reef structure.
  • The shade provided by the mangroves helps deter coral bleaching, a condition that essentially starves coral and can, in prolonged cases, result in their death. With climate change, coral bleaching episodes are becoming more frequent around the world.

Bleaching occurs when corals lose their symbiotic algae. Most corals contain algae called zooxanthellae within their cells. The coral protects the algae, and provides the algae with the compounds they need for photosynthesis. The algae, in turn, produce oxygen, help the coral to remove waste products, and, most importantly, provide the coral with compounds the coral needs for everyday survival. When corals are under prolonged physiological stress, they may expel the algae, leading to the condition called bleaching.

When examining corals for this study, researchers found evidence of some species thriving under the mangroves while bleaching in unshaded areas outside of the mangroves. Boulder brain corals, for example, were found in abundance under the mangroves and were healthy, while many of those in unshaded areas a short distance away were bleaching.


Red Mangroves are subtropical or tropical trees that colonize coastlines and brackish water habitats, have networks of prop roots that extend down toward the seafloor and corals are growing on and under these roots. (Photo Credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS)

Adapting to Climate Change?

Organisms throughout the world are threatened as climate and other conditions change. If they can find ways to adapt, as it appears these coral have, they can continue to survive as part of an invaluable piece of this world's intricate ecological puzzle. It is not known how many other mangrove areas in the world harbor such a high diversity of corals, as most people do not look for corals growing in these areas. No coral reefs have been identified to date that protect from rising ocean temperatures, acidification and increased solar radiation like these mangrove habitats in St. John.


Boulder brain corals, for example, were found in abundance under the mangroves and were healthy, while many of those in unshaded areas a short distance away were bleaching. (Photo Credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS)

Source


#505227 - 06/15/15 12:26 PM Re: Mangroves, important to our environment [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,591
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Reefs for People – Mangroves

Mangroves play a key role maintaining fisheries, as well as providing services for tourism and shoreline protection. In spite of their indisputable economic, social and environmental importance, throughout Belize mangroves are getting cut and dredged.


#520622 - 01/01/17 11:47 PM Re: Mangroves, important to our environment [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,591
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Identification of Threatened and Resilient Mangroves in the Belize Barrier Reef System

Mangroves are an important component of the Belize Barrier Reef Complex, a mosaic of coral reef, sea grass, and mangrove ecosystems, and the world's second largest barrier reef system. Based on satellite imagery available through the Regional Visualization & Monitoring System (SERVIR), the extent of Belize's mangrove cover was assessed over a 30-year period to obtain a previously unavailable time-series of information on the status of these ecosystems. Using Zisman's (1998) mangrove extent data as a baseline, a multi-temporal remote sensing-based change detection study was conducted by performing spectral mixture analysis on Landsat satellite imagery for the years 1980, 1989, 1994, 2000, 2004, and 2010. This assessment indicates that from late 1980 through early 2010, Belize's mangrove cover declined from 188,417 acres (76,250 hectares), or 98.7% of the original extent, to 184,548 acres (74,684 ha.), or 96.7% of the original extent. Those figures equate to a net loss of approximately 3,900 acres of mangrove cover over roughly 30 years, a loss of 2% of the 1980 mangrove cover.


The average annual net loss was estimated at 0.07%, or 125 acres. At the scale of 1:100,000, this assessment also reveals that land clearing resulted in fragmentation of some 2.1% of mangrove communities. In terms of the resilience of mangrove ecosystems, a mere 236 acres (96 ha.) of the area cleared between 1980 and 2010 was detected to have regrown. It is also assumed that widespread mangrove regrowth was likely not seen because land previously occupied by mangroves is permanently converted to other land uses such as infrastructure for housing. Whereas recent publications such as the 2010 World Mangrove Atlas indicate that a fifth of the world's mangrove cover had been lost since 1980, the loss of 2% of Belize's overall mangrove cover between 1980 and 2010 can be considered low. angroves, which are legally protected under Belize's Forests Act (GOB 2003), have been the subject of various studies that have highlighted their importance from both ecological and economic perspectives (Gray et al 1990, Zisman 1998, Murray et al 2003, McField & Kramer 2007, Cooper et al 2009).

Among other characteristics, they provide important ecological services in terms of shoreline protection and serve as nurseries for reef fish. A large proportion of the country's mangroves are also intimately inter-connected with the Belize Barrier Reef Complex, the largest coral reef system in the Americas, and the second largest in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef (UNESCO 1996). Cooper et al (2009) found that mangroves contribute some US $174-249 million per year to Belize's economy. With conservation of Belize's mangroves thus being crucial, McField & Kramer (2007) highlighted the scarcity of information on the current extent of Belize's mangrove ecosystems. Well into the 2000s, the most accurate information available on the extent of Belize's mangroves was a national map of mangrove cover largely ~1990 data (Zisman 1998).

In 2008, the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People initiative facilitated the updating of Zisman's data using satellite imagery from 2006-2007. To update Belize's national mangrove map to 2010 and to examine mangrove dynamics for 1980-2010, the current study was conducted by CATHALAC, with funding from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Extensive use was made of data available through the Regional Visualization & Monitoring System (SERVIR), a joint initiative of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), NASA, CATHALAC, and other partners.

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