Mangroves are underappreciated. Around 100 species of these trees and shrubs blanket tropical estuaries and tidal zones across the globe. Their partially exposed, stilt-like roots extend deep into waterlogged soil, sequestering carbon and protecting coastlines against storm surges. They would seem like the hardiest of plants, but new research shows their tough living conditions may make it hard for mangroves to adapt to climate change. Researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, and several other universities, recently looked at the genetics of six mangrove species taken from two dozen populations around Southeast Asia. They found that diversity was so low within each species that individual trees are basically indistinguishable from each other at the genetic level. This is a major disadvantage when it comes to adaptation, and could spell disaster for populations unable to adjust to climate change and sea level rise. Published in the journal Global Change Biology, the study found that while tropical mangrove forests “appear to be vibrant at present…optimism about the resilience of these ecosystems is premature.” Chung-I Wu, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago and coauthor of the paper, told Earther that DNA sequences like the ones they looked at are an… Read full this story
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