Coral Island Expedition Discovers Tropical Mangroves Grabbing More Land

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Guest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t JoNova; A field expedition to investigate remote islands on the Great Barrier Reef has discovered the islands are growing.

Magic mangroves a ‘blue carbon’ buffer for Great Barrier Reef

By Liam Phelan

January 8, 2022 — 9.00am

A scientific field trip to a small group of deserted islands on the Great Barrier Reef has its roots in a 1928 expedition and has implications for the future of the reef.

A team of researchers from the University of Wollongong led by Associate Professor Sarah Hamylton visited the Howick islands, about 130 kilometres north-east of Cooktown, in far northern Queensland, last year and found the mangroves were expanding.

“What’s particularly interesting for a lot of the islands in the Howick group that we are mapping and investigating is that they are growing,” Associate Professor Hamylton says.

“Most of the islands we have looked at are predominantly made up of broken up corals, which waves then sweep and deposit on the island. This coral sediment is responsible for building up the islands. Add in mangrove forests and you can see that these islands are actually growing. Some mangrove forests are marching forwards by up to five to six metres per year,” she explains.

Associate Professor Hamylton says the group was able to compare aerial images taken by a drone with hand-drawn maps created in 1928 and photographs from 1974.

A PhD student in philosophy Oxana Repina says the research is now more important than ever.

“The fate of the Great Barrier Reef depends on how quickly we address human-made pressures like climate change and try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This place is among the most diverse and iconic ecosystems on Earth. Sure, the media headlines have portrayed the reef as dying or dead, but that’s an oversimplification, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Let’s not write the reef off just yet.”

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The scientists stopped short of offering an explanation for the sustained Mangrove growth spurt, an explanation for why the Mangroves which were studied appear to be advancing so vigorously, but there is an obvious possible explanation.

via Watts Up With That?

January 11, 2022