New satellite imagery has given scientists the most comprehensive and exact data on the distribution and decline of mangrove forests from across the world. The research, carried out by scientists from the U.S Geological Survey and NASA, is published in Global Ecology and Biogeography, and reveals forest distribution is 12.3% smaller than earlier estimates.
Mangrove forests are critical habitats for countless birds in the Caribbean, and these fragile woodlands are under incessant pressure from coastal development, pollution, subsidence and erosion, and sea level rise. The destruction of mangroves extends to wildlife beyond birds, however. For example,
More than 40 percent of a sample of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds that are restricted to mangrove ecosystems are globally threatened with extinction, according to an assessment published in the July/August issue of BioScience. The study, by David A. Luther of the University of Maryland and Russell Greenberg of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, was based on an extensive literature search and expert consultations.The conclusions emphasize the vulnerability of animals that are dependent on a habitat rapidly being lost or degraded through coastal development, overexploitation, pollution, and changes in sea level and salinity.
Added to the negative impacts on birds and other wildlife is the loss of crucial carbon sinks. Recent research has shown that mangroves sequester more carbon than almost any other type of forest on the earth.
A research team from the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest and Northern research stations, University of Helsinki and the Center for International Forestry Research examined the carbon content of 25 mangrove forests across the Indo-Pacific region and found that per hectare mangrove forests store up to four times more carbon than most other tropical forests around the world.
The Caribbean Birding Trail engages people not simply in birds but in the issues that affect them. Birds serve as a metaphor for the natural world, and the rapid decline of mangrove forests in the Caribbean is a concern not only for those who watch birds but for all of us that depend on stable, sustained coastal ecosystems. Join us in Grand Bahama in July to learn more about the state of conservation and mangroves in the Caribbean.
Wiley – Blackwell (2010, August 19). New satellite data reveals true decline of world’s mangrove forests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 16, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/08/100818085932.htm
American Institute of Biological Sciences (2009, July 7). Mangrove-dependent Animals Globally Threatened. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 16, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/07/090701082905.htm
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station (2011, April 5). Mangroves among the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics; Coastal trees key to lowering greenhouse gases. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 16, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2011/04/110404173247.htm