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Mangrove Dieback “Unprecedented”

An international wetland conference in Darwin has been told that the magnitude of dieback of mangroves in northern Australia is “unprecedented and deeply concerning”.

Australia is home to 7% of the world’s mangroves, which take in 50 times more carbon than tropical forests by area. “Shoreline stability and fisheries values, amongst other benefits of mangrove vegetation, are under threat,” Prof Norm Duke of James Cook University told the Australian Mangrove and Saltmarsh Network Conference.

Duke said the phenomenon was especially alarming in light of the large-scale coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, as it also appeared to correlate with this year’s extreme warming and climate events in the region.

Duke said understanding of the scale of the mangrove loss is currently hampered by the critical lack of detailed shoreline monitoring, particularly in remote areas of northern Australia.

Conference delegates called for mangrove-monitoring efforts to be scaled-up as a matter of priority so that scientists could establish baseline conditions of national shorelines, and quickly isolate and manage dieback events such as those seen across hundreds of hectares in two locations on the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria – at Limmin Bight in the Northern Territory and Karumba in Queensland.

Duke said the next step in the investigation into the Gulf of Carpentaria dieback would be to start field investigations to determine the cause and begin appropriate management measures.