ALREADY alarmed by extensive bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, scientists are witnessing a large-scale dieback of mangroves in northern Australia.
James Cook University's Professor Norm Duke, spokesman for the Australian Mangrove and Saltmarsh Network, said the scale and magnitude of the "deeply concerning" loss appeared to be unprecedented and in correlation with this year's extreme warming.
The extent of the damage came to light during an international wetland conference in Darwin.
A detailed scientific survey is yet to be done, but Professor Duke says photographs have been taken of hundreds of hectares of mangroves dying in two locations on the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria - at Limmin Bight in the Northern Territory, and Karumba in Queensland.
"Shoreline stability and fisheries values, amongst other benefits of mangrove vegetation, are under threat," he said.
Professor Duke and conference delegates called for mangrove monitoring efforts to be urgently increased so scientists could establish baseline conditions of national shorelines and quickly isolate and manage dieback events.
Australia is home to 7% of the world's mangroves.