New satellite-based maps of mangrove heights

Mangrove forests burst with life, thriving in the muddy and saline environment of tropical coasts. While they cover a small portion of land area (geographically), they are giants in Earth’s carbon cycle. Mangroves are among the planet’s best carbon scrubbers, moving far more than their fair share of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into long-term storage.

Thriving in brackish water that kills other plants, mangroves drop tons of leaves and branches—more than 9 metric tons per hectare (4 tons per acre) per year. The litter decomposes very slowly because the forests flood regularly at high tide. This translates into a lot of carbon taken out of the atmosphere and stored as peat in mangrove soils.

These useful trees are being squeezed between rising seas and coastal development around the world, and scientists are working to assess what that means to the carbon cycle. For that, they need information on forest canopies; the taller the trees, the more carbon they remove from the atmosphere.

But mangrove species are wildly divergent in height, with the same forest harboring trees as tall as giant sequoias and as short as rose bushes. And the forests are widely dispersed throughout the world’s tropics and subtropics,

Original Title: New satellite-based maps of mangrove heights
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