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Biological Science Seminar Series - Giovanna McClenachan

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Virtual Event

Thursday, March 17, 2022, 3 pm– 4 pm

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Giovanna McClenachan 
Assistant Professor
Biological Sciences
Nicholls State University


Replacement of oyster reefs by mangroves: Unexpected climate-driven ecosystem shifts

Abstract: Globally, increases in minimum air temperatures have facilitated the transition of salt marshes to mangrove forests over the past 30 years. However, we recently discovered a novel climate driven ecosystem shift from oyster reef to mangrove island along Florida’s eastern coast, something previously never documented. Using aerial photographs and high-resolution satellite imagery, we determined that the number and size of mangrove patches on oyster reefs in Mosquito Lagoon, FL increased by 198% since 1984, coinciding with a decrease in the frequency and severity of freeze events.
The lack of freezes could lead globally to an ecosystem shift of intertidal oyster reefs to mangrove islands near poleward mangrove range limits. The shift is not consistent across all reefs and there is a need to uncover the interactions of broadscale climate and local driving factors. We are beginning to analyze oyster reefs and mangrove islands in varying stages of conversion at multiple locations along the entire North American poleward mangrove extent, assessing mangrove survival, biogeochemical properties, sediment composition, reef elevation changes, and hydrologic regimes. As the first ever study of the ‘second wave’ of mangrove encroachment, this work combines landscape-scale climate variables with reef-scale biotic and abiotic mechanisms.

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