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Mangrove canopy height globally related to precipitation, temperature and cyclone frequency


Mangrove wetlands are among the most productive and carbon-dense ecosystems in the world. Their structural attributes vary considerably across spatial scales, yielding large uncertainties in regional and global estimates of carbon stocks. Here, we present a global analysis of mangrove canopy height gradients and aboveground carbon stocks based on remotely sensed measurements and field data. Our study highlights that precipitation, temperature and cyclone frequency explain 74% of the global trends in maximum canopy height, with other geophysical factors influencing the observed variability at local and regional scales. We find the tallest mangrove forests in Gabon, equatorial Africa, where stands attain 62.8 m. The total global mangrove carbon stock (above- and belowground biomass, and soil) is estimated at 5.03 Pg, with a quarter of this value stored in Indonesia. Our analysis implies sensitivity of mangrove structure to climate change, and offers a baseline to monitor national and regional trends in mangrove carbon stocks.

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The data that support the findings of this study are available from the Oak Ridge National Data Archive (ORNL DAAC; as GEOTIFF files and as an online webmapping tool ( The in situ field data that have not been published previously are also available through the ORNL DAAC as .csv files listing individual tree measurements ( The SRTM and ICESat/GLAS data sets used as input to generate the maps can be downloaded from and, respectively. The global mangrove map26 is freely available at The tropical cyclone and SSS data are available from NOAA archives ( and ( The WorldClim data are available at

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This work was conducted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology (Caltech), under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This work was funded by the NASA Land-Cover/Land-Use Change (LCLUC) Program project ‘Vulnerability Assessment of Mangrove Forest Regions of the Americas’, the NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) project ‘Total Carbon Estimation in African Blue Carbon Ecosystems’ (14-CMS14-0028), the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program (FCE-LTER; grants nos. DBI-0620409 and DEB-1237517) and the Department of Interior, South-Central Climate Science Center. We furthermore acknowledge funding by the United States Agency for International Development SilvaCarbon Program, the United States Department of Agriculture – Forest Service International Programs and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation Mitigation (SWAMP) Program for field data collection in Mozambique and Bangladesh. The authors thank M. Rahman (Kyoto University, Japan), Z. Iqbal (SilvaCarbon Bangladesh and Bangladesh Forest Service), I. Ahmed (Bangladesh Forest Service) and the Bangladesh Forest Service for providing access to the Sundarbans Mangrove Carbon Assessment field data. The authors also thank the Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux (ANPN) and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique (CENAREST) in Gabon, in particular, K. Jeffery, A. Flore, K. Pambo and L. White for providing field permits and access to Pongara National Park for the validation of canopy heights. The authors thank the Ministerio del Ambiente, Energia y Telecomunicacion (MINAET) for providing the field permits for data collection in Costa Rica, and the Organization of Tropical Studies (Costa Rica), E. Medina (Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas, Venezuela), V.E. Mena Mosquera (Universidad Tecnológica del Chocó, Colombia), M.M. Pozo Cajas (Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral, Ecuador), J.E. Pineda Mancera (Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia), M. Obiang (Université Omar Bongo, Gabon) and the Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO, Mexico) for in situ field support. Thanks also go to N. Pinto and M. Denbina (JPL, Caltech), R. Aguilar (Vascular Plants of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica), A. Armstrong (United Space Research Association/NASA GSFC, USA), P. Montesano (Sigma Space Applications International/NASA GSFC, USA), G. Sun (University of Maryland and NASA GSFC, USA), A. Vega (AMBICOR, Costa Rica), J. Corcoran (JPL, Caltech, USA), C. Trettin (USDA Forest Service, USA), L. Duncanson (University of Maryland/NASA GSFC), A. Williams (Louisiana State University, USA), H. Tavera (MarViva, Colombia), P. Walfir Souza-Filho, M. Ferreira Cougo and R. Salum (Universidade Federal do Pará, Brazil), I. Longa (Agence Gabonaise d’Etudes et Observations Spaciales, Gabon), S.K. Lee (University of Maryland/GSFC, USA) and D. Lagomasino (University of Maryland/GSFC, USA) for help in the field. The authors thank X.C. Wang (JPL, Caltech) for providing the tidal range data and S.K. Lee, R. Lucas (University of Aberystwith, Wales) and D. Lagomasino for providing edits to the manuscript. Conservation International, through the Blue Carbon initiative, supported identification of knowledge gaps and local stakeholders.

Author information

M.S. and L.F. conceived and designed the study. M.S. led the SRTM and ICESat/GLAS data processing, with assistance from C.S., L.F. and N.T. Field data processing and biomass model development were led by L.F., with assistance from M.S. Field experimental design and data collection were carried out by M.S., L.F., V.R.-M., E.C.-M. and N.T. The interpretation of data and generation of results were performed by M.S., L.F., C.S., V.R.-M., E.C-M., T.V.D.S. and N.T. The writing of the paper was led by M.S. and L.F., with input from all co-authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Marc Simard or Lola Fatoyinbo.

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Fig. 1: Global map of mangrove maximum canopy height and location of sampling sites (numbers) where in situ data were collected.
Fig. 2: Global distribution of maximum mangrove canopy height extent.
Fig. 3: Distribution of mangrove canopy height in the Gabon Estuary, on the Atlantic coast of Equatorial Africa.
Fig. 4: Latitudinal variation of maximum canopy height (m) and global environmental variables.