Radiocarbon dating and wood density chronologies of mangrove trees in arid Western Australia
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Mangrove trees tend to be larger and mangrove communities more diverse in tropical latitudes, particularly where there is high rainfall. Variation in the structure, growth and productivity of mangrove forests over climatic gradients suggests they are sensitive to variations in climate, but evidence of changes in the structure and growth of mangrove trees in response to climatic variation is scarce. Bomb-pulse radiocarbon dating provides accurate dates of recent wood formation and tree age of tropical and subtropical tree species. Here, we used radiocarbon techniques combined with X-ray densitometry to develop a wood density chronology for the mangrove Avicennia marina in the Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia (WA). We tested whether wood density chronologies of A. marina were sensitive to variation in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation Index, which reflects temperature fluctuations in the Pacific Ocean and is linked to the instrumental rainfall record in north WA. We also determined growth rates in mangrove trees from the Exmouth Gulf, WA. We found that seaward fringing A. marina trees (∼10 cm diameter) were 48±1 to 89±23 years old (mean ± 1σ) and that their growth rates ranged from 4.08±2.36 to 5.30±3.33 mm/yr (mean±1σ). The wood density of our studied mangrove trees decreased with increases in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation Index. Future predicted drying of the region will likely lead to further reductions in wood density and their associated growth rates in mangrove forests in the region. © 2013 Santini et al.
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