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How South Pacific mangroves may respond to predicted climate change and sea level rise

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posted on 2023-05-28, 01:07 authored by Joanna EllisonJoanna Ellison
In the Pacific islands the total mangrove area is about 343,735 ha, with largest areas in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and New Caledonia. A total of 34 species of mangroves occur, as well as 3 hybrids. These are of the Indo-Malayan assemblage (with one exception), and decline in diversity from west to east across the Pacific, reaching a limit at American Samoa. Mangrove resources are traditionally exploited in the Pacific islands, for construction and fuel wood, herbal medicines, and the gathering of crabs and fish. There are two main environmental settings for mangroves in the Pacific, deltaic and estuarine mangroves of high islands, and embayment, lagoon and reef flat mangroves of low islands. It is indicated from past analogues that their close relationship with sea-level height renders these mangrove swamps particularly vulnerable to disruption by sea-level rise. Stratigraphic records of Pacific island mangrove ecosystems during sea-level changes of the Holocene Period demonstrate that low islands mangroves can keep up with a sea-level rise of up to 12 cm per 100 years. Mangroves of high islands can keep up with rates of sea-level rates of up to 45 cm per 100 years, according to the supply of fluvial sediment. When the rate of sea-level rise exceeds the rate of accretion, mangroves experience problems of substrate erosion, inundation stress and increased salinity. Rise in temperature and the direct effects of increased CO2 levels are likely to increase mangrove productivity, change phenological patterns (such as the timing of flowering and fruiting), and expand the ranges of mangroves into higher latitudes. Pacific island mangroves are expected to demonstrate a sensitive response to the predicted rise in sea-level. A regional monitoring system is needed to provide data on ecosystem changes in productivity, species composition and sedimentation. This has been the intention of a number of programs, but none has yet been implemented.


Publication title

Climate change in the South Pacific: impacts and responses in Australia, New Zealand, and small islands states


Advances in global change research






Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands

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  • Published

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The definitive version is available online at

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