Rainfall and its possible hysteresis effect on the proportional cover of tropical tidal-wetland mangroves and saltmarsh-saltpans
- Publication Type:
- Journal Article
- Marine and Freshwater Research, 2019, 70 (8), pp. 1047 - 1055
- Issue Date:
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© 2019 CSIRO. Mangrove-saltmarsh tidal wetlands are highly dynamic ecosystems, responding and adapting to climate and physical conditions at all spatial and temporal scales. Knowledge of the large-scale ecosystem processes involved and how they might be influenced by climate variables is highly relevant today. For tidal-wetland sites well within the latitudinal range of the mostly tropical mangrove communities, we confirm that average annual rainfall influences vegetative cover, as well as species composition and biomass of tidal wetlands. On the basis of 205 largely unmodified, tropical and subtropical estuaries of northern Australia, a sigmoidal relationship, with a centroid inflection point ∼1368 mm, was derived between rainfall and the relative amounts of high-biomass mangroves and low-biomass saltmarsh-saltpan vegetation. The presence and probability of observed combinations of these community types were quantified using the wetland cover index, which is the ratio of total mangrove area to that of mangroves plus intertidal saltmarsh and saltpans. Accordingly, periodic changes in rainfall trends are likely manifest as either encroachment or dieback of mangroves along the ecotones separating them from tidal saltmarsh-saltpans. Presented is a new conceptual framework and model that describes how such ecosystem-scale processes take place in tropical and subtropical tidal wetlands.
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