Anthropogenic impacts on mangrove and saltmarsh communities in eastern Australia

The global phenomenon of mangrove encroachment into saltmarshes has been observed across five continents. It has been proposed that this encroachment is driven in part by rising atmospheric CO2 concentration and reduced salinity in saltmarshes resulting from rising sea levels enhancing the establishment success of mangrove seedlings. However, this is yet to be empirically tested at the community-level. In this study, we examined the effect of CO2 and salinity on seedling growth of two mangrove species, Aegiceras corniculatum and Avicennia
marina, grown individually and in a model saltmarsh community in a glasshouse experiment. We found that the shoot (210%) and root (91%) biomass of the saltmarsh species was significantly greater under elevated CO2. As a result, both mangrove species experienced a stronger competitive effect from the saltmarsh species under elevated CO2. Nevertheless, A. marina seedlings produced on average 48% more biomass under elevated CO2 when grown in competition with the saltmarsh species which they used to grow taller suggesting they were light
limited. In contrast, A. corniculatum growth did not significantly differ between CO2 treatments. However, it had on average 36% greater growth under seawater salinity compared to hypersaline conditions. Avicenna marina seedlings were not affected by salinity. From these results, we suggest that although CO2 and salinity are not universal drivers determining saltmarsh-mangrove boundaries, it is likely that rising atmospheric CO2 concentration and reduced salinity associated with sea level rise will enhance the establishment success of mangrove seedlings in saltmarshes, which may facilitate mangrove encroachment in the future.

Ina G., 2019. Anthropogenic impacts on mangrove and saltmarsh communities in eastern Australia. PhD thesis, University of Hamburg and Macquarie University. 153 pp. Thesis.

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