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Long-term retrospection on mangrove development using sediment cores and pollen analysis: a review

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 23:08 authored by Joanna EllisonJoanna Ellison
Mangroves are biogenic systems that accumulate sedimentary sequences, where cores can provide records of mangrove species variation in distribution with past climate change and sea-level change. Fossil evidence used for palaeoecological reconstruction is based on organic remains that preserve identifying features so that they can be identified to generic levels at least. This includesmacrofossils such as fruit, flowers, wood or leaves, or microfossils particularly pollen. Anaerobic conditions in mangrove sediment allow the long-term preservation of these fossil records. Fossil pollen from core samples is concentrated formicroscopic examination by use of standard chemical treatments, but refinements of these are necessary for the peculiarities ofmangrove peat. Pollen diagrams are expressed in concentrations, ormore usefully in mangrove environments as proportions relative to others, as this has been shown to demonstrate the depositional environment actually underneath the mangrove forest. Radiocarbon dating of sedimentary sequences is used to date palaeoecological successions shown by fossil sequences, or long-term sedimentation rates. Sediment accretion in the last 50-200 years can been analysed better using Cs137 and Pb210 analyses. From pollen and macrofossils mostly recovered from stratigraphic cores of sedimentary rock and more recent sediment, the evolution and dispersal ofmangroves through geological time has been reconstructed.While reconstruction of actual temperatures in these earlier records is associative to the fossil types present, it is apparent that mangroves have always been tropical species, extending to higher latitudes only during global warm periods. Many sedimentary records show mangroves deeper than the present lower limit of mangrove growth at mean sea-level. These indicate sea-level rising over time, and mangroves keeping pace with rising sea-level. Stratigraphic dating shows accretion rates of 1 mm a1 for low island locations, and up to 1.5 mm a1 in high islands/continental margins. Sedimentary records can also show die-off of mangroves with more rapid sea-level rise and replacement by open water during rising sea-level, landward retreat of mangrove zones, or replacement of mangroves by freshwater forest with sedimentary infill. The causes of mangrove community changes identified in the palaeoecological record can only be inferred by comparison with ecological studies in the modern environment, the link between the two that may be possible through long-term mangrove monitoring being poorly established.


Publication title

Aquatic Botany








School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


Elsevier BV

Place of publication

The Netherlands

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Coastal or estuarine biodiversity

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