Mangrove forests could drown under rising seas by 2050 if more is not done to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study.
Scientists examined sediment data from 78 mangrove ecosystems from the past 10,000 years, discovering that mangroves are more likely to die out if sea level rise rates exceed 0.23 inches, or nearly 6 millimeters, according to their paper published in the journal Science on Thursday. Experts believe that amount could likely be exceeded by 2050.
These ecosystems, which are key for the protection of coastal areas from different tropical storms, also provide a habitat for many organisms, including algae, barnacles, oysters, sponges and bryozoans.
The view of mangrove forests in the Way Kambas National Park area, Sumatra. In addition to preventing coastal abrasion, the mangrove forests are used by residents to store and dock boats.
“If they disappear, there’s going to be imbalances in the number of fish and other species that rely on them,” co-author Erica Ashe, a postdoctoral scientist at Rutgers University, told Earther.
“And that could have effects on other species, even ones that actually aren’t sheltered by these mangroves, because when the levels of different species change, that can affect the entire system,” Ashe added.
In addition to the protection they provide coastal communities and the carbon they scrub from the atmosphere, mangroves are also intertwined with the livelihood of fisherman who catch different species within their ecosystems.