Large-scale dieback of mangroves in Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria: a severe ecosystem response, coincidental with an unusually extreme weather event

Duke, Norman C., Kovacs, John M., Griffiths, Anthony D., Preece, Luke, Hill, Duncan J. E., Van Oosterzee, Penny, Mackenzie, Jock, Morning, Hailey S., and Burrows, Damien (2017) Large-scale dieback of mangroves in Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria: a severe ecosystem response, coincidental with an unusually extreme weather event. Marine and Freshwater Research. pp. 1-14. (In Press)

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Abstract

This study records and documents the most severe and notable instance ever reported of sudden and widespread dieback of mangrove vegetation. Between late 2015 and early 2016, extensive areas of mangrove tidal wetland vegetation died back along 1000 km of the shoreline of Australia’s remote Gulf of Carpentaria. The cause is not fully explained, but the timing was coincident with an extreme weather event; notably one of high temperatures and low precipitation lacking storm winds. The dieback was severe and widespread, affecting more than 7400 ha or 6% of mangrove vegetation in the affected area from Roper River estuary in the Northern Territory, east to Karumba in Queensland. At the time, there was an unusually lengthy period of severe drought conditions, unprecedented high temperatures and a temporary drop in sea level. Although consequential moisture stress appears to have contributed to the cause, this occurrence was further coincidental with heat-stressed coral bleaching. This article describes the effect and diagnostic features of this severe dieback event in the Gulf, and considers potential causal factors.

Item ID: 48289
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: mangrove forests, plant–climate interactions, tidal wetlands
ISSN: 1448-6059
Funders: James Cook University (JCU), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
Projects and Grants: NSERC #RGPIN-2014-06188
Date Deposited: 05 Apr 2017 03:36
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 40%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050104 Landscape Ecology @ 30%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960307 Effects of Climate Change and Variability on Australia (excl. Social Impacts) @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 30%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9610 Natural Hazards > 961002 Natural Hazards in Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 30%
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