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New monitoring network will track effects of sea level rise on mangrove forests in Western Pacific Islands

A mangrove forest in Palau. Source: USDA-FS.

Continued sea-level rise from a changing climate is expected to result in the loss of many coastal mangrove trees, which will significantly impact human populations on remote Western Pacific Islands that rely on mangrove forests for food, building materials, and firewood. Mangroves also protect local communities from tsunamis and cyclones and are important for climate change mitigation because they remove and store large amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide in trees and sediments. Understanding how the elevation of the coast is changing at finer resolutions is a critical data gap in efforts to identify which coastal areas will be most impacted by changes in sea level rise and determine how to protect or restore them. 


To address this need, a new project, led by researchers from USDA-FS and USGS, will build a Pacific Mangrove Monitoring Network (PACMAN) with partners from the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia (Kosrae, Pohnpei, Yap), the Micronesia Challenge (regional challenge to conserve 30% of terrestrial resources by 2030), and the Micronesia Conservation Trust. Using standard methods such as rod surface elevation tables and novel methods such as a ground-based light detection and ranging (LiDAR) system, PACMAN will measure how fast mangrove forest floors are rising or falling relative to sea-level rise, identify the factors influencing that rate, and develop strategies to help mangrove forests keep up with sea-level rise. The project team will also develop a user-friendly program to allow resource managers on each island to process and analyze data that they have collected. Information will then be shared through groups created through social media outlets, as well as through annual virtual meetings.