The distribution and structure of mangroves (Avicennia germinans and Rhizophora mangle) near a rapidly changing range limit in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico
In coastal wetlands, one of the most striking examples of climate change is the poleward range expansion of mangrove forests in response to warming winters. In North America, the Cedar Key region has often been considered the range limit for mangroves along the western coast of Florida (USA). However, within the past several decades, robust stands of Avicennia germinans and Rhizophora mangle have been observed in the Apalachicola Bay region, which is 200 km northwest of Cedar Key. Here, we combined field vegetation surveys, historical herbarium records, and analyses of past temperature data (station-based and gridded) to examine the distribution and structure of these two mangrove species in the Apalachicola Bay region. Historical records indicate that mangroves have been present for at least 150 years. However, our abundance and structural data indicate that mangroves are currently reaching heights, densities, and reproductive stages not historically reported. We found a surprisingly broad distribution and high number of R. mangle individuals, which is unlike A. germinans–dominated mangrove range limits in Louisiana and Texas. Using cold temperature tolerance thresholds and gridded temperature data, we show that A. germinans and R. mangle distributions can be influenced by spatial variation in the frequency of extreme freeze events, which can be used to spatially depict the risk of mangrove cold damage. Given the rapid pace of change and the potential for abrupt landscape-scale transformation, our findings reinforce the pressing need to advance understanding of mangrove expansion dynamics near northern range limits in the southeastern United States.
|The distribution and structure of mangroves (Avicennia germinans and Rhizophora mangle) near a rapidly changing range limit in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico
|Caitlin M. Snyder, Laura Feher, Michael Osland, Christopher J. Miller, A. Randall Hughes, Karen L Cummins
|Estuaries and Coasts
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Wetland and Aquatic Research Center