Elevations of mangrove forests of Pohnpei, Micronesia
Ellison, JC and Buffington, KJ and Thorne, KM and Gesch, D and Irwin, J and Danielson, J, Elevations of mangrove forests of Pohnpei, Micronesia, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 268 pp. 107780. ISSN 0272-7714 (2022) [Refereed Article]
Mangrove surface elevation is the crux of mangrove vulnerability to sea level rise. Local topography influences critical periods of tidal inundation that govern distributions of mangrove species and dictates future distributions. This study surveyed ground surface elevations of the extensive mangroves of Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, integrating four survey technologies to solve issues of canopy blocking satellite reception, dense aerial roots limiting line-of-sight, and remoteness from surveyed datums. The island-wide average elevation of the mangrove seaward edge was −0.57 ± 0.13 m relative to MSL, while the landward average elevation was 0.33 ± 0.12 m relative to MSL. The overall mangrove elevation range was thus estimated to be 0.90 m. Mangrove species Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, Rhizophora apiculata and Sonneratia alba had large, overlapping elevation ranges, while Rhizophora stylosa occurred low in the tide frame. These species are likely to be less vulnerable to rising sea level given their greater range of elevation occurrence and presumably flooding tolerance, and hence have the highest adaptive capacity to rising sea level. Some landward edge species had very narrow elevation ranges, increasing their vulnerability to sea-level rise, with adjacent potential upland migration areas limited due to steep topography and human development. Pohnpei mangroves occupied 74% of the mean tidal range, similar to surveys elsewhere in the Pacific. This study demonstrates how more extensive understanding of the elevation distributions of intertidal species can contribute to sea-level rise vulnerability assessments, to allow prioritised climate change adaptation. However, more work is needed in standardizing approaches for global comparisons.