Refining Tipping Points for Range Expansion of Coastal Mangroves in a Warming Climate

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To improve predictions of tropical range expansion in response to climate change, there is a need to better understand tropical species’ responses to winter temperature extremes. A recent project integrated data from sites across the mangrove range edge in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts of North America, including data from a regional collaborative network – the Mangrove Migration Network. In 2018, an extreme freeze event affected 60% of these sites, with minimum temperatures ranging from 0 to -7°C. We used temperature and vegetation data from before and after the freeze to quantify temperature thresholds for leaf damage, mortality, and biomass recovery of the black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) – the most freeze-tolerant mangrove species in North America. Collectively, our results refine temperature thresholds for black mangrove freeze damage, mortality and recovery, which can improve predictions of mangrove range expansion and coastal wetland ecological transformations in a warming climate. 

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Dr. Michael Osland is a Research Ecologist at the USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. In broad terms, his research examines the effects of global change on ecosystems and the implications for ecological conservation and restoration. Much of his research focuses on wetland ecosystems at the dynamic interface between land and ocean (mangrove forests, salt marshes).