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Satellites confirm world mangrove losses

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Washington (UPI) Aug 18, 2010
A decline in the world's mangrove forests has been confirmed through comprehensive and exact data gathered by orbiting satellites, scientists say.

Scientists from the U.S Geological Survey and NASA say the area covered by mangrove forests, among the most productive and biologically important ecosystems of the world, is 12.3 percent smaller than earlier estimates, research published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography reveals.

The forests of trees, palms and shrubs, which grow at tropical and subtropical tidal zones across the equator, have adapted to challenging environmental conditions, thriving in regions of high salinity, scorching temperatures and extreme tides, researchers say.

Increasing human activity and frequent severe storms have taken their toll, however, resulting in a loss rate for mangrove forests higher than the loss of inland tropical forests and coral reefs, the new data shows.

"The current estimate of mangrove forests of the world is less than half what it once was, and much of that is in a degraded condition," Dr. Chandra Giri from the USGS said. "It is believed that 35 percent of mangrove forests were lost from 1980 to 2000, which has had an impact on the coastal communities that use mangrove forests as a protective barrier from natural disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis."

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