Vertical accretion rates of mangroves in northeast Brazil: Implications for future responses and management

Raymond Ward, Luiz Drude de Lacerda, Aline da Silva Cerqueira, Vitor Hugo Miro C. Silva, Omar Celis Hernandez

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Northeast (NE) Brazil has a semi-arid climate and low plant diversity mangroves confined to estuaries influenced by a meso-tidal regime (~2.5 m). Whilst these mangroves are protected by state and federal legislation, large areas have been lost to urban encroachment and shrimp farms, a situation continuing today. This work discusses the potential impacts of sea level rise on mangroves in three estuaries in NE Brazil. The three sites witness decreasing annual precipitation associated with global climate change, which will have the dual effect of increasing water and salinity stress, decreasing productivity, as well as reducing inputs of allochthonous fluvial material. Simultaneously, since the 1990’s local sea level rise (3.5 mm/ yr) has been greater than the global average (3.2 mm/ yr). Average accretion rates, derived from 137Cs and 210Pb dating in fringing mangroves in this study, are likely to be insufficient to maintain surface elevation and keep pace with sea level rise. Notwithstanding, historical data suggest that there has been no recorded mangrove loss as a result of sea level rise and in some areas a recorded gain in the upper estuarine mangrove reaches. At present there are limited inputs from the watershed in all three estuaries, mostly due to decreasing annual rainfall and river damming, limiting the transport capacity and hampering the export of sediments to the fringing mangroves and the sea and limiting the ability of the fringing mangroves to respond to sea level rise. However, this has been suggested to result in the accumulation of soils along river margins further upstream forming new islands and potentially expanding estuarine mangroves upstream. Both the fringing and the estuarine mangroves are surrounded by both licensed and unlicensed settlements, as well as dunes preventing expansion into higher elevation areas as a response to sea level rise. Recent changes to legislation protecting these ecosystems put a further strain on adaptation and resilience capacity, increasing the threat to these important coastal systems and the ecosystem services they provide.
Original languageEnglish
Article number108382
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2023


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