July 9, 2009

Study: Mangrove animals risk extinction

A U.S. study indicates more than 40 percent of animals living in mangrove ecosystems around the world are threatened with extinction.

Researchers led by David Luther of the University of Maryland and Russell Greenberg of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center said their study of amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds that are restricted to mangrove ecosystems was based on an extensive literature search and consultations with various experts. They said their findings emphasize the vulnerability of animals that are dependent on a habitat rapidly being lost or degraded through coastal development, overexploitation, pollution and changes in sea level and salinity.

Mangroves -- salt-tolerant woody plants concentrated along coastal margins, generally in warm regions -- are home to hundreds of vertebrates, especially in Asia and Australia, researchers said. Luther and Greenberg concentrated on 69 terrestrial vertebrate species and subspecies that seem restricted to mangroves: 48 birds, 14 reptiles, six mammals, and one amphibian.

From the early 1980s to 2001, between 19 percent and 35 percent of the world's mangrove forest area was lost. Luther and Greenberg say at that rate, mangroves could be extinct within 100 years.

The study appears in the journal BioScience.