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Aboveground allometric models for freeze-affected black mangroves (Avicennia germinans): Equations for a climate sensitive mangrove-marsh ecotone

June 27, 2014

Across the globe, species distributions are changing in response to climate change and land use change. In parts of the southeastern United States, climate change is expected to result in the poleward range expansion of black mangroves (Avicennia germinans) at the expense of some salt marsh vegetation. The morphology of A. germinans at its northern range limit is more shrub-like than in tropical climes in part due to the aboveground structural damage and vigorous multi-stem regrowth triggered by extreme winter temperatures. In this study, we developed aboveground allometric equations for freeze-affected black mangroves which can be used to quantify: (1) total aboveground biomass; (2) leaf biomass; (3) stem plus branch biomass; and (4) leaf area. Plant volume (i.e., a combination of crown area and plant height) was selected as the optimal predictor of the four response variables. We expect that our simple measurements and equations can be adapted for use in other mangrove ecosystems located in abiotic settings that result in mangrove individuals with dwarf or shrub-like morphologies including oligotrophic and arid environments. Many important ecological functions and services are affected by changes in coastal wetland plant community structure and productivity including carbon storage, nutrient cycling, coastal protection, recreation, fish and avian habitat, and ecosystem response to sea level rise and extreme climatic events. Coastal scientists in the southeastern United States can use the identified allometric equations, in combination with easily obtained and non-destructive plant volume measurements, to better quantify and monitor ecological change within the dynamic, climate sensitive, and highly-productive mangrove-marsh ecotone.