US Geological Survey



Kyle C. Cavanaugh

Date of this Version



Cavanaugh KC, Osland MJ, Bardou R, et al. Sensitivity of mangrove range limits to climate variability. Global Ecol Biogeogr. 2018;27:925–935. 1111/geb.12751


U.S. Government Work.


Aim: Correlative distribution models have been used to identify potential climatic controls of mangrove range limits, but there is still uncertainty about the relative importance of these factors across different regions. To provide insights into the strength of climatic control of different mangrove range limits, we tested whether temporal variability in mangrove abundance increases near range limits and whether this variability is correlated with climatic factors thought to control large scale mangrove distributions.

Location: North and South America.

Time period: 1984–2011.

Major taxa studied: Avicennia germinans, Avicennia schuaeriana, Rhizophora mangle, Laguncularia racemosa.

Methods: We characterized temporal variability in the enhanced vegetation index (EVI) at mangrove range limits using Landsat satellite imagery collected between 1984–2011. We characterized greening trends at each range limit, examined variability in EVI along latitudinal gradients near each range limit, and assessed correlations between changes in EVI and temperature and precipitation.

Results: Spatial variability in mean EVI was generally correlated with temperature and precipitation, but the relationships were region specific. Greening trends were most pronounced at range limits in eastern North America. In these regions variability in EVI increased toward the range limit and was sensitive to climatic factors. In contrast, EVI at range limits on the Pacific coast of North America and both coasts of South America was relatively stable and less sensitive to climatic variability.

Main conclusions: Our results suggest that range limits in eastern North America are strongly controlled by climate factors. Mangrove expansion in response to future warming is expected to be rapid in regions that are highly sensitive to climate variability (e.g. eastern North America), but the response in other range limits (e.g. South America) is likely to be more complex and modulated by additional factors such as dispersal limitation, habitat constraints, and/or changing climatic means rather than just extremes.