CSDMS Summer Science Series II: Quantifying the Role of increasing Net Evaporation rates on Mangrove Island Vegetation in the Caribbean
Mangroves are a halophytic tree communities distributed along tropical and subtropical coastlines. They provide invaluable services, such as blue carbon storage, coastal protection and habitat for thousands of species. Despite their global importance, their responses to rapid climate change are yet to be fully understood. Particularly, it is unclear how mangroves will respond to future increases in net evaporation rates (i.e. evaporation - precipitation), which generally lead to an increase in the concentration of soil stressors such as sulfide and sulfate. We addressed this knowledge gap by collecting remote sensing data from a number of remote mangrove islands across the Caribbean and couple them with a numerical model that describes mangrove vegetated area as a function of net evaporation rate, outer edge island salinity, and hydraulic conductivity of the soil. We found that this modeling framework can capture the variability observed in our mangrove island database, suggesting that an increase in net evaporation rates lead to significant reductions in mangrove island vegetation. Moreover, based on future net evaporation rate scenarios from Global Climate models we find this trend will likely continue and predict that mangrove islands across the Caribbean will experience significant reduction in vegetated area.