In 2015, about 7400 hectares of mangrove forest died along the coastline of Gulf of Carpentaria. These mangroves are an extremely important part of the local ecosystem, providing home and nurseries for a range of marine life, protecting coastlines from weather extremes, storm surges and erosion, and controlling river run-off. Earlier studies reported that a combination of ocean-atmospheric conditions was responsible for this environmental catastrophe. Mangroves require a mix of fresh and salt water to grow to maturity, however, the shallow roots of the mangrove trees do make them vulnerable to lower than normal sea levels, dry conditions, and more saline water. Some of the Gulf’s climate conditions have been noted as unusual, with record high temperatures, and a shorter wet season in early 2015.
A detailed climate attribution study has been initiated to determine what role climate change played in the mangrove dieback event of 2015. We examine various climate drivers, including local land-ocean conditions and large-scale atmospheric feedback. Based on a combination of the potentially important climate conditions that compounded to make a highly stressful environment for the mangrove trees, a 'mangrove stress index' is proposed for a quantitative assessment of the climatic influence on potential dieback events. Understanding the drivers of such dieback events will allow for improved capability in the monitoring of such ecological disasters, which promises great value in the optimization of risk management for natural resource policy-makers and, planners in future.