Linking temperature sensitivity of mangrove communities, populations and individuals across a tropical-temperate transitional zone

Journal of Ecology
By: , and 



  1. Climate change is reshaping coastal wetlands worldwide, driving ecosystem shifts like mangrove poleward expansion into saltmarshes in tropical-temperate transitional zones. Though warming is recognized as the primary driver, a lack of detailed field studies limits our ability to predict mangrove responses to rapid climate warming.
  2. Here, we characterized how mangroves vary across a temperature gradient at 18 sites along Florida's Gulf of Mexico coast (USA). We used minimum air temperature (Tmin) derived from daily data from 1989 to 2021 as the independent variable and applied plot-based and synoptic approaches to quantify species-specific mangrove variation at community, population, and individual levels. We then used these results to spatially project future mangrove ecosystem properties under multiple warming scenarios.
  3. Across the Tmin gradient from −10.8 to −1.4°C, mangrove canopy height and coverage ranged from 0.4 to 11.5 m and 15% to 98%, respectively, with both exhibiting sigmoidal increases with Tmin. Estimated mangrove aboveground biomass ranged from 0 to 496.7 Mg/ha and showed a positive linear relationship with Tmin due both to the tall tree stratum's increased biomass per tree and higher abundance.
  4. While the population abundance and coverage of Rhizophora mangle and Laguncularia racemosa had positive linear relationships with Tmin, Avicennia germinans exhibited a significant quadratic relationship, reflecting the higher freeze tolerance of this species. Such tolerance may stem from A. germinans' higher morphological plasticity observed at the individual level, adapting to cold stress by exhibiting a more shrub-like architecture at colder sites.
  5. Based on these field-derived quantitative relationships, we projected substantial increases in mangrove coverage and canopy height near current range limits, with tall A. germinans dominating in the north and R. mangle dominating the centre and south of the study region.
  6. Synthesis. To better predict the ecological consequences in coastal wetlands under future climate change, it is essential to understand how mangroves respond to winter temperature regimes across a temperature gradient. Collectively, these cross-level and species-specific results advance our understanding of mangrove temperature sensitivity and provide information about the future of coastal wetland structure and function in response to a changing climate.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Linking temperature sensitivity of mangrove communities, populations and individuals across a tropical-temperate transitional zone
Series title Journal of Ecology
DOI 10.1111/1365-2745.14296
Edition Online First
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher British Ecological Society
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Country United States
State Florida
Other Geospatial Gulf of Mexico Coast
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