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Climate change sends mangroves marching north in Florida

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High temperatures resulting in the lack of frost has produced a northward growth of endangered mangrove forests according to a review of the last 27 years of satellite surveys of the Atlantic coast of Florida conducted by scientists from the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland that was presented in the Dec. 30, 2013, edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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The scientists show that almost 3,000 acres of salt marshes from Miami as far north as Saint Augustine have been taken over by mangroves. Higher average temperatures and the lack of killing frosts have allowed the growth of mangroves.

The researchers indicate that the increase in the number of mangroves taking over salt marshes may be a mixed blessing in environmental terms. While many of the animals and vegetation that depend on salt marshes can exist equally as well in mangrove forests some of the most endangered species cannot. Insufficient time has elapsed to indicate that mangroves have adapted completely to the man-made chemical environment that threatens tidal marshes.

Mangrove forests became threatened as a result of population growth and land clearing and Florida was recently cited as a prospect for the third most populous state in the United States. Increased population threatens both the new mangrove forests and the tidal marshes.

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