The global distribution and trajectory of tidal flats

Murray, Nicholas J., Phinn, Stuart R., DeWitt, Michael, Ferrari, Renata, Johnston, Renee, Lyons, Mitchell B., Clinton, Nicholas, Thau, David, and Fuller, Richard A. (2019) The global distribution and trajectory of tidal flats. Nature, 565 (7738). pp. 222-225.

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Abstract

Increasing human populations around the global coastline have caused extensive loss, degradation and fragmentation of coastal ecosystems, threatening the delivery of important ecosystem services 1 . As a result, alarming losses of mangrove, coral reef, seagrass, kelp forest and coastal marsh ecosystems have occurred 1–6 . However, owing to the difficulty of mapping intertidal areas globally, the distribution and status of tidal flats—one of the most extensive coastal ecosystems—remain unknown 7 . Here we present an analysis of over 700,000 satellite images that maps the global extent of and change in tidal flats over the course of 33 years (1984–2016). We find that tidal flats, defined as sand, rock or mud flats that undergo regular tidal inundation 7 , occupy at least 127,921 km 2 (124,286–131,821 km 2 , 95% confidence interval). About 70% of the global extent of tidal flats is found in three continents (Asia (44% of total), North America (15.5% of total) and South America (11% of total)), with 49.2% being concentrated in just eight countries (Indonesia, China, Australia, the United States, Canada, India, Brazil and Myanmar). For regions with sufficient data to develop a consistent multi-decadal time series—which included East Asia, the Middle East and North America—we estimate that 16.02% (15.62–16.47%, 95% confidence interval) of tidal flats were lost between 1984 and 2016. Extensive degradation from coastal development 1 , reduced sediment delivery from major rivers 8,9 , sinking of riverine deltas 8,10 , increased coastal erosion and sea-level rise 11 signal a continuing negative trajectory for tidal flat ecosystems around the world. Our high-spatial-resolution dataset delivers global maps of tidal flats, which substantially advances our understanding of the distribution, trajectory and status of these poorly known coastal ecosystems.

Item ID: 60286
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1476-4687
Keywords: Conservation biology
Copyright Information: © 2018, Springer Nature Limited
Funders: Google Earth Engine Research Award
Date Deposited: 05 Sep 2019 06:17
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 65%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 35%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960501 Ecosystem Assessment and Management at Regional or Larger Scales @ 70%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 20%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales @ 10%
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