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Mapping the Causes of Mangrove Loss


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A joint NASA-USGS initiative has created the first worldwide map of the causes of change in mangrove habitats between 2000 and 2016. Mangrove trees can be found growing in the salty mud along the Earth’s tropical and subtropical coastlines. Mangroves are vital to aquatic ecosystems due to their ability to prevent soil erosion and store carbon. Mangroves also provide critical habitat to multiple marine species such as algae, barnacles, oysters, sponges, shrimp, crabs, and lobsters.

Mangroves are threatened by both human and natural causes. Human activities in the form of farming and aquaculture and natural stressors such as erosion and extreme weather have both driven mangrove habitat loss. The joint study analyzed over one million Landsat images captured between 2000 and 2016 to create the first-ever global map visualizing the drivers of mangrove loss. Causes of mangrove loss were mapped at a resolution of 30 meters. Researchers found that 62% of mangrove loss during the time period studied was due to land use changes, mostly from conversion to aquaculture and agriculture. Roughly 80% of the loss was concentrated in six Southeast Asian nations:  Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Mangrove loss due to human activities did decline 73% between 2000 and 2016. Mangrove loss due to natural events also decreased but at a lessor rate than human-led activities.



Map and graphs showing global distribution of mangrove loss and its drivers. From the study: “(a) The longitudinal distribution of total mangrove loss and the relative contribution of its primary drivers. Different colors represent unique drivers of mangrove loss. (b) The latitudinal distribution of total mangrove loss and the relative contribution of its primary drivers. (c‐g) Global distribution of mangrove loss and associated drivers from 2000 to 2016 at 1°×1° resolution, with the relative contribution (percentage) of primary drivers per continent: (c) North America, (d) South America, (e) Africa, (f) Asia, (g) Australia together with Oceania.”




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