Frequency of extreme freeze events controls the distribution and structure of black mangroves (Avicennia germinans) near their northern range limit in coastal Louisiana

Diversity and Distributions
By: , and 

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Abstract

Aim

Climate change is expected to result in the tropicalization of coastal wetlands in the northern Gulf of Mexico, as warming winters allow tropical mangrove forests to expand their distribution poleward at the expense of temperate salt marshes. Data limitations near mangrove range limits have hindered understanding of the effects of winter temperature extremes on mangrove distribution and structure. Here, we investigated the influence of extreme freeze events on the abundance, height and coverage of black mangroves (Avicennia germinans ) near their northern range limit in Louisiana.

Location

Coastal Louisiana, USA.

Methods

We quantified the relationships between the frequency of extreme freeze events and A. germinans abundance, height and coverage using: (a) mangrove observation points recorded via aerial surveys from a fixed‐wing aircraft; (b) 30 years of temperature data; and (c) mangrove mortality and leaf damage temperature thresholds. We used freeze frequency data and mangrove–climate relationships to evaluate and spatially depict the risk of A. germinans freeze damage across Louisiana.

Results

We identified strong negative relationships between the frequency of extreme freeze events and A. germinans abundance, height and coverage. Avicennia germinans is most abundant, tall and continuous along the south‐eastern outer coast of Louisiana, where the frequency of extreme freeze events is reduced (i.e., lower risk of mangrove freeze damage) by the buffering effects of comparatively warm Gulf of Mexico waters. Conversely, the risk of A. germinans freeze damage has historically been very high across Louisiana's Chenier Plain and within more inland wetlands in the Deltaic Plain.

Main conclusions

Our analyses advance understanding of how the frequency of extreme freeze events controls the distribution, height and coverage of A. germinans near its northern range limit. In addition to informing climate‐smart coastal restoration efforts, our findings can be used to better anticipate and prepare for the tropicalization of temperate wetlands due to climate change.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Frequency of extreme freeze events controls the distribution and structure of black mangroves (Avicennia germinans) near their northern range limit in coastal Louisiana
Series title Diversity and Distributions
DOI 10.1111/ddi.13119
Edition Online First
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Country United States
State Louisiana
Other Geospatial Coastal Louisiana
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