Unravelling the causes and consequences of the massive mangrove dieback in Northern Australia

September 2016 Author James Sippo

One of the largest mangrove dieback events has occurred this year in northern Australia along approximately 700 km of pristine coastline. The causes and consequences of this dieback for coastal carbon cycling and marine foodwebs have remained unexplored, until now. A team of barefooted scientists including James Sippo, Mitchel Call and Ash McMahon have just undertaken some of the first "on the ground" assessments of how this dieback event is altering the carbon cycle. The team is using a range of techniques including sediment coring, cross-shelf transects and greenhouse gas flux measuring techniques to assess what is happening to the carbon cycle in the affected area, and whether this kind of event has occurred in the past. 

Here is a snippet of a day in the field, by James Sippo:

Day 2 in the field.

So far all our efforts have been concentrated on the dead mangrove forest. Today we have taken sediment core, greenhouse gas emission and groundwater samples from the transition zone between the mangrove forest and adjacent salt marsh/salt pan to the seaward edge of the forest. Sediment cores are being collected to a depth of 2.3m from the salt marsh/salt pan, through to the seaward edge. From sediment analysis we hope to see if events like this dieback have occurred previously or are even part of a natural cycle. Groundwater samples are revealing extremely high salinity within the mangrove forest and salt marsh areas.