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Poleward expansion of mangroves is a threshold response to decreased frequency of extreme cold events

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Abstract

Regional warming associated with climate change is linked with altered range and abundance of species and ecosystems worldwide. However, the ecological impacts of changes in the frequency of extreme events have not been as well documented, especially for coastal and marine environments. We used 28 y of satellite imagery to demonstrate that the area of mangrove forests has doubled at the northern end of their historic range on the east coast of Florida. This expansion is associated with a reduction in the frequency of "extreme" cold events (days colder than ?4 °C), but uncorrelated with changes in mean annual temperature, mean annual precipitation, and land use. Our analyses provide evidence for a threshold response, with declining frequency of severe cold winter events allowing for poleward expansion of mangroves. Future warming may result in increases in mangrove cover beyond current latitudinal limits of mangrove forests, thereby altering the structure and function of these important coastal ecosystems.

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Cavanaugh, K. C., Kellner, J. R., Forde, A. J., Gruner, D. S., Parker, J. D., Rodriguez, W., & Feller, I. C. (2014). Poleward expansion of mangroves is a threshold response to decreased frequency of extreme cold events. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(2), 723–727. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1315800111

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