Leaf Area Index (LAI; as an indicator of the health) of the mangrove ecosystems on the northern coasts of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman was measured in the field and modeled in response to observed (1986–2017) and predicted (2018–2100) drought occurrences (quantified using the Standardized Precipitation Index [SPI]). The relationship of LAI with the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) obtained from satellite images was quantified, the LAI between 1986 and 2017 retrospectively estimated, and a relationship between LAI and SPI developed for the same period. Long-term climate data were used as input in the RCP8.5 climate change scenario to reconstruct recent and forecast future drought intensities. Both the NDVI and the SPI were strongly related with the LAI, indicating that realistic LAI values were derived from historic satellite data to portray annual changes of LAI in response to changes in SPI. Our findings show that projected future drought intensities modeled by the RCP8.5 scenario increase more and future LAIs decreased more on the coasts of the Gulf of Oman than the coasts of the Persian Gulf in the coming decades. The year 1998 was the most significant change-point for mean annual rainfall amounts and drought occurrences as well as for LAIs and at no time between 1998 and 2017 or between 2018 and 2100 are SPI and LAI values expected to return to pre-1998 values. LAI and SPI are projected to decline sharply around 2030, reach their lowest levels between 2040 and 2070, and increase and stabilize during the late decades of the 21st century at values similar to the present time. Overall, this study provides a comprehensive picture of the responses of mangroves to fluctuating future drought conditions, facilitating the development of management plans for these vulnerable habitats in the face of future climate change.
- Persian gulf
- Gulf of Oman