Life stage influences the resistance and resilience of black mangrove forests to winter climate extremes

Ecosphere
By: , and 

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Abstract

In subtropical coastal wetlands on multiple continents, climate change-induced reductions in the frequency and intensity of freezing temperatures are expected to lead to the expansion of woody plants (i.e., mangrove forests) at the expense of tidal grasslands (i.e., salt marshes). Since some ecosystem goods and services would be affected by mangrove range expansion, there is a need to better understand mangrove sensitivity to freezing temperatures as well as the implications of changing winter climate extremes for mangrove-salt marsh interactions. In this study, we investigated the following questions: (1) how does plant life stage (i.e., ontogeny) influence the resistance and resilience of black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) forests to freezing temperatures; and (2) how might differential life stage responses to freeze events affect the rate of mangrove expansion and salt marsh displacement due to climate change? To address these questions, we quantified freeze damage and recovery for different life stages (seedling, short tree, and tall tree) following extreme winter air temperature events that occurred near the northern range limit of A. germinans in North America. We found that life stage affects black mangrove forest resistance and resilience to winter climate extremes in a nonlinear fashion. Resistance to winter climate extremes was high for tall A. germinans trees and seedlings, but lowest for short trees. Resilience was highest for tall A. germinans trees. These results suggest the presence of positive feedbacks and indicate that climate-change induced decreases in the frequency and intensity of extreme minimum air temperatures could lead to a nonlinear increase in mangrove forest resistance and resilience. This feedback could accelerate future mangrove expansion and salt marsh loss at rates beyond what would be predicted from climate change alone. In general terms, our study highlights the importance of accounting for differential life stage responses and positive feedbacks when evaluating the ecological effects of changes in the frequency and magnitude of climate extremes.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Life stage influences the resistance and resilience of black mangrove forests to winter climate extremes
Series title Ecosphere
DOI 10.1890/ES15-00042.1
Volume 6
Issue 9
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description art160: 15 p.
Country United States
State Louisiana
City Leeville
Other Geospatial Port Fourchon
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N