Potential Responses of Caribbean Mangroves to Sea Level Rise
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Mangroves are woody plants that create a transitional environment between land and sea in the tropics. These plants are adapted to frequent inundation in waterlogged soils through specialized root morphology; however, sea level rise induced by climate change may affect the frequency and depth of inundation. Many studies speculate that mangrove populations will respond negatively to sea level rise, though extent of the response remains unclear given that different mangrove species possess adaptations that may help them cope with these changes in sea level. In this study, STELLA modeling software was used to simulate how long before two Caribbean species of mangroves on the coast of Belize, Avicenna germinans and Rhizophora mangle, might be affected by sea level rise. Predictions of sea level rise were used along with average coastal slope and mangrove density to model how fast both species could be affected. The model suggests A. germinans would be affected much slower than R. mangle due to its position further inland and an assumed higher critical sea level. This STELLA model provides a general baseline for negative responses of mangrove populations to sea level rise, and the next step is to augment the model by incorporating additional information about mangrove physiology and local sea level rise.
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