Historical analysis of mangrove leaf traits throughout the 19th and 20th centuries reveals differential responses to increases in atmospheric CO2

Ruth Reef, Catherine E. Lovelock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: To reconstruct the historic response of two dominant mangrove species to increases in atmospheric CO2 over the past two centuries. 

Location: Indo-Pacific. 

Methods: We use a novel approach to assess plant responses to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations by measuring leaf traits of herbarium specimens of two dominant and widespread mangrove species. 

Results: Leaf traits were correlated with atmospheric CO2 concentration and latitude, but not with rainfall or the multidecadal multivariate El Niño-Southern Oscillation index. Rhizophora stylosa and Avicennia marina exhibited significant differences in their response to elevated CO2. Increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations over the past 165 years have led to a corresponding rise in photosynthetic carbon gain by the widespread mangrove A.marina, but not by R.stylosa. 

Main conclusions: CO2 fixation is at the heart of plant energy acquisition, global primary productivity and CO2 sequestration. Given that atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been rapidly rising for the past two centuries, surprisingly few datasets have examined the long-term response of trees to rising CO2. Our results suggest changes to interspecific interactions, nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration in these globally significant forests are expected as CO2 concentrations continue to increase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1209-1214
Number of pages6
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Blue carbon
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Climate change
  • Herbarium
  • Specific leaf area
  • Wetlands

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