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Extreme weather impacts on tropical mangrove forests in the Eastern Brazil Marine Ecoregion

Ricardo Nogueira Servino, Luiz Eduardo de Oliveira Gomes, Angelo Fraga Bernardino
Science of the total environment 2018 v.628-629 pp. 233-240
temperature, wetlands, El Nino, wind, ecoregions, monitoring, ecosystem services, mangrove forests, raw materials, drought, financial economics, climate change, semiarid zones, remote sensing, dieback, Brazil
Extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent in the 21st century bringing significant impacts to coastal ecosystems. However, the capacity to detect and measure those impacts are still limited, with effects largely unstudied. In June 2016, a hailstorm with wind gusts of over 100 km·h⁻¹ caused an unprecedented mangrove dieback on Eastern Brazil. To quantify the scale of impact and short-term recovery of mangroves (15-mo), we used satellite imagery and field sampling to evaluate changes in forest structure in control and impacted areas after the hailstorm. Satellite imagery revealed mangrove dieback in over 500 ha, corresponding to 29.3% of the total forest area suddenly impacted after the hailstorm. Fifteen months after the hailstorm, some impacted areas show an initial recovery, while others continued to degrade. The El Niño years of 2014–2016 created mild drought conditions in Eastern Brazil. As observed in wetlands of semi-arid regions during the same period, mangrove recovery may have been impaired by continued physiological stress and climate change effects. Economic losses in the study site from typical mangrove ecosystem services including food provision, climate regulation, raw materials and nurseries are estimated to at least US$ 792,624 yr⁻¹. This is the first evidence of an extreme weather impact on mangroves in Brazil that typically provide unique ecological and economic subsistence to coastal populations. Our results reveal that there is a pressing need for long-term monitoring and climate change adaptation actions for coastal wetlands in Brazil, and to provide broad estimates of ecosystem values associated with these ecosystems given many areas are already experiencing chronic stress from local impacts, drought and high temperatures.