Climate Change Impacts on Mangrove Forests:
Mangrove forests are instrumental ecosystems for tropical and subtropical coastlines and surrounding communities. Asia holds 42% of the worldâ€™s mangrove ecosystems, with 21% being found in Africa, and the remaining 38% dispersed widely through the tropical coastal regions of North, South, and Central America, Australia, and the various islands within Oceania (Earth Observatory 2010).
Mangroves not only provide food and habitat for animals, but they are essential for sustaining biodiversity along coastlines, and they secure and trap sediments to reduce the long-term consequences of coastal erosion (Ewel 1998, 84).
These terrestrial and aquatic habitats have been shown to adapt to sea level rise over thousands of years because of peat formation and carbonate deposits located alongside the root systems. This, however, has changed drastically due to the influx of ocean temperatures and the rapid sea level rise occurring over the past century (Alongi 2015, 31).
Along the coasts of Louisiana, Texas, and southern Florida, seedlings of black mangroves have had difficulties adjusting to rising temperatures and have shown high rates of die-off within 39 and 40-degree celsius water.
It is unclear how rising temperatures affect established mangroves and their root systems, but it is believed that water temperatures ranging from 42 and 45 degrees celsius will have limiting effects on growth (Odum et al., 1982).
The concept of vulnerability is arguably impossible to measure because of its subjective nature, but it is undeniable that increased exposure to elements as a result of climate change has made negative impacts on these coastal mangrove ecosystems (Ellison, 2014).
Direct human pressures, alongside the impacts of climate change, have led scientists to hypothesize four potential changes that mangrove forests will most likely endure. Due to changing salinity levels, the first prediction states mangrove forests along coastlines will decline as the scarcity of freshwater increases.
The second and third predictions state that the forests will decline based on sea level rise, the lack of colonization space inland, and decreases in sediment yields.
The final prediction anticipates increased expansion of forest ecosystems throughout a greater latitudinal range in order to adapt to temperatures and salinity changes (Alongi 2015, 35).
Overall, mangrove forests are extremely valuable ecosystems, and their protection is required for continual sustainability and long-term health.
Alongi, D. M. (2015). The Impact of Climate Change on Mangrove Forests. Current Climate Change Reports, 1(1), 30â€“39. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40641-015-0002-x
Earth Observatory. (2010, November 30). Mapping Mangroves by Satellite. NASA Earth
Ellison, J. C. (2015). Vulnerability Assessment of Mangroves to Direct Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise
Impacts. Wetlands Ecology and Management, 23(2), 115â€“137.
Ewel, K. C., Twilley, R. R., & Ong, J. E. (1998). Different Kinds of Mangrove Forests Provide Different
Goods and Services. Global Ecology and Biogeography Letters, 7(1), 83â€“94.
Odum, W. E., McIvor, C. C., & Smith, T. J. (1982). The Ecology of the Mangroves of South Florida: A
Community Profile. The Service.
Anti-Racism in Environmental Science and Conservation
I have had the privilege of being involved in ecology, environmental science, and conservation work for over 10 years. In this time, Iâ€™ve been able to work with many esteemed researchers across some of the most prestigious institutions in the country. My experience as a Black man in this field, is that most people within the scientific and environmental communities are NOT actively or openly racist. While this is a refreshing departure from some other fields within the United States, there is still much work to be done to fully address the legacy of inequity and institutional racism that permeates all aspects of our lives. It is not enough for the environmental community to just be non-racist; to truly attain the goals of protecting the planetâ€™s resources, ensuring that all people have access to a sustainable lifestyle, and producing relevant and innovative science on a global scale, the field of environmental science and conservation must adopt the ideals of anti-racism.
Here, anti-racism means actively identifying and opposing racism in all its forms. Not just individual acts of racism and prejudice, but also institutional, structural, and environmental racism. Due to the all-encompassing effects of racism, anti-racism can look different across various settings and situations. Within academic settings, institutional racism can be addressed in the recruitment and training of students and acknowledging racist origins in many theories when teaching science history. At the level of environmental non-profits and research institutions, issues with hiring and retaining minority employees need significant improvement. To combat environmental racism at the structural level, there needs to be collaboration between researchers, policy makers, and governments to address major inequities at the local and international scale. Additionally, increased focus on anti-racism can increase awareness of other social issues within the field, such as misogyny and homophobia.
There isnâ€™t enough space within this blog post to truly address all the complexities and issues regarding racism and anti-racism in the field of environmental science, however, we must take every opportunity available to start the conversation. Iâ€™ve included several links to more detailed information on anti-racism work within science and other fields.
â€¢ â€œBeing Anti-Racistâ€� â€“ National Museum of African American History and Culture;
â€¢ Anti-Racism Resources: Racial Bias in Scientific Fields â€“ Harvard University
â€¢ â€œScience has a racism problemâ€� â€“ Cell Journal Editorial
â€¢ â€œTo attract more blacks and Hispanics to STEM, universities must address racial issues on campusâ€� â€“ The Hechinger Report
â€¢ â€œIs Science for Us? Black Studentsâ€™ and Parentsâ€™ Views of Science and Science Careersâ€� â€“ Science Education
â€¢ â€œThe ecological and evolutionary consequences of systemic racism in urban environmentsâ€� â€“ Science