People, Environment

Australian Mangrove Deaths Blamed on Climate Change

Australian Mangrove Deaths Blamed on Climate ChangeAustralian Mangrove Deaths Blamed on Climate Change

Vast swathes of mangroves have died in Australia’s north, with scientists saying climate change is likely responsible for the staggering scale of the event.

“Once healthy mangroves that lined the Gulf of Carpentaria’s coastline are now dead and the die-off happened over a single month,” James Cook University Professor Norm Duke says.

He says the scale of the event is a world first and coincided with a mass coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef, Sky News Australia reported.

About 7,000 hectares have been affected along a 700-kilometer stretch of coast from Normanton in Queensland well into the Northern Territory.

Duke says the fact it took just a month for the mangroves to die back suggests a link with climate change.

Scientists first heard anecdotal evidence about the event earlier this year, and aerial and satellite surveys have since confirmed how large it is.

“We have seen smaller instances of this kind of moisture stress before, but what is so unusual now is its extent, and that it occurred across the whole southern gulf in a single month,” Duke said on Monday.

“What we are seeing is a natural process, but nature usually does this incrementally. Not with such severity. We have never seen that before.”

Duke said high temperatures combined with the extended dry season had done great damage, as some of the mangroves will recover, but others won’t.

That does not bode well for species, including dugongs and for Australia’s northern fisheries, with mangroves vital breeding grounds for prawns, crabs and fish, including barramundi.

“There are already anecdotal reports of marine life dying and piles of dead seagrass washing up on the shore. If that’s true, then turtles and dugongs will be starving in a few months,” he said.

“The scale of this impact, covering the distance from Sydney to Melbourne, necessitates a more thorough assessment to better understand both the cause and the considerable wider impact and repercussions.”