Magazine article Geographical

Dieback Down Under: A Massive Die-Off of Australian Mangrove Forests Is Being Attributed to the El Nino Weather System

Magazine article Geographical

Dieback Down Under: A Massive Die-Off of Australian Mangrove Forests Is Being Attributed to the El Nino Weather System

Article excerpt

It is likely to be the worst instance of climate-related dieback of mangrove forests ever recorded. 7,400 hectares of the trees withered and died along a 1,000-kilometre stretch of the Gulf of Carpentaria (right) in an 'unprecedented and deeply concerning' event. Scientists have pinned the blame squarely on El Nino.

'Essentially they died of thirst,' says Norman Duke, ecologist at James Cook University who has led an investigation into the cause of the dieback. According to his report, the trees had been weakened by four years of drought and were then probably killed off by the high temperatures and the low sea levels of last year's El Nino. This coincided with the world's worst recorded coral bleaching, which impacted 25 per cent of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. 'We've learnt that mangroves, like coral reefs, are vulnerable to changes in climate and extreme weather events,' says Duke.

The Gulf's mangroves are considered to be some of the most pristine of their kind. Although remote, they serve as an essential part of the tidal ecosystems and industries such as prawn and mudcrab fisheries. …

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