Does spatial scale affect the pattern of mangrove change under different rainfall regimes? An example in southeast Queensland, Australia



The aim of this study was to investigate the interactions of natural and anthropogenic variables at different spatial scales related to changes in mangrove distribution during a relatively wet period (1972–1990) and a dry period (1991–2004) in subtropical eastern Australia. Previous research has demonstrated that mangroves are encroaching into salt marsh. Mangrove spatial change in southeast Queensland is related generally to landscape variables especially during the relatively wet period. What has not been explored is the spatial scale of the influence under the two rainfall regimes (wet and dry) and that is the aim of this paper. Ten sites were examined at different levels of resolution including catchment, sub-catchment and two buffer zones (1000 and 500 m), under the period of relatively higher and lower rainfall. Land use was ascertained from Landsat satellite imagery using Maximum Likelihood Classification techniques. Partial least squares regression analysis was used to study the relationships between the predictor variables and the rate of change in the mangrove distribution. The research has found that the impact of land use/cover on the encroachment of mangrove into saltmarsh can vary and appears to be related to rainfall patterns, which in turn affect hydrological connectivity. A major finding of this research was that the changing spatial patterns of mangroves during the wet period was more a function of land use/cover pattern and population density at the sub-catchment level, whereas during drier periods it was more affected by the local effects of nearby land use/cover in buffer zones.