Winners and losers as mangrove, coral and seagrass ecosystems respond to sea-level rise in Solomon Islands

Albert, Simon, Saunders, Megan I., Roelfsema, Chris M., Leon, Javier X., Johnstone, Elizabeth, Mackenzie, Jock R., Hoegh-Guldberg, Ove, Grinham, Alistair R., Phinn, Stuart R., Duke, Norman C, Mumby, Peter J., Kovacs, Eva, and Woodroffe, Colin D. (2017) Winners and losers as mangrove, coral and seagrass ecosystems respond to sea-level rise in Solomon Islands. Environmental Research Letters, 12 (9). 094009. pp. 1-11.

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A 2007 earthquake in the western Solomon Islands resulted in a localised subsidence event in which sea level (relative to the previous coastal settings) rose approximately 30–70 cm, providing insight into impacts of future rapid changes to sea level on coastal ecosystems. Here, we show that increasing sea level by 30–70 cm can have contrasting impacts on mangrove, seagrass and coral reef ecosystems. Coral reef habitats were the clear winners with a steady lateral growth from 2006–2014, yielding a 157% increase in areal coverage over seven years. Mangrove ecosystems, on the other hand, suffered the largest impact through a rapid dieback of 35% (130 ha) of mangrove forest in the study area after subsidence. These forests, however, had partially recovered seven years after the earthquake albeit with a different community structure. The shallow seagrass ecosystems demonstrated the most dynamic response to relative shifts in sea level with both losses and gains in areal extent at small scales of 10–100 m. The results of this study emphasize the importance of considering the impacts of sea-level rise within a complex landscape in which winners and losers may vary over time and space.

Item ID: 50184
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1748-9326
Keywords: mangrove; coral; seagrass; Solomon Islands; sea level change
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Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI.

Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2017 02:03
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410199 Climate change impacts and adaptation not elsewhere classified @ 40%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 30%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410402 Environmental assessment and monitoring @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960309 Effects of Climate Change and Variability on the South Pacific (excl. Australia and New Zealand) (excl. Social Impacts) @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9610 Natural Hazards > 961002 Natural Hazards in Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 30%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences @ 30%
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