Australia’s Mangroves: BBC & ABC’s Disturbing Fearmongering with Scientific Dishonesty and Idiocy

by Jim Steele  8/15/2022

I want to thank Dr. Alan Longhurst for alerting me to the BBC’s fearmongering. He requested that I address the media’s perversion of science. Dr. Longhurst (now 97 years-old) is one of the world’s premiere oceanographers, inventor of the Longhurst-Hardy Plankton Recorder, served as the first Director of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center of the US National Marine Fisheries Service and Director of the esteemed Marine Ecology Laboratory of Canada’s Bedford Institute of Oceanography, among other prestigious positions and tropical research.

(The photos and captions are screenshots from BBC: Mangrove forests: How 40 million Australian trees died of thirst.)

The BBC’s short video begins by showing devastated mangrove forests form northern Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria from a 2015-2016 die-off. The BBC and ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) framed this natural event as a human-caused climate change disaster, to perpetuate the myth of a climate crisis.

Mangrove specialist Dr Norman Duke attributed the episodic 2015 die-off to a 40 cm drop in sea level for 6 months due to an El Nino that caused the mangroves to “die of thirst”. Duke acknowledged that it is well known that El Ninos naturally cause such major drops in sea level in the western Pacific. But there is no evidence, nor any consensus, that El Ninos have been made worse by rising CO2.  It is known however, that El Nino activity has increased over the last 6000 years as the earth cooled since the Holocene Optimum due to changes in the sun’s orbital cycles.

Duke estimated that about 7,400 hectares (74 km2) of mangroves were lost. That would amount to no more than 2% of the total mangrove covered forests in the Gulf of Carpentaria.  Mangroves are salt-tolerant shrubs and trees that grow in warm, coastal waters. The areas of severe dieback matched zonation contours, where higher elevations were drier and most vulnerable to sea level fall.

In 2017, Duke published, “Large-scale dieback of mangroves in Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria: a severe ecosystem response, coincidental with an unusually extreme weather event”. He reported that mangrove diebacks “occurred when regional annual rainfall levels were low, temperatures were high and sea levels were notably lower at the time.” And those conditions correlated with “the El Nino–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle for this region”.

Although mangroves are tropical, and their expansion is linked to warmer conditions, and are known to be reasonably heat tolerant, Duke (2017) attempted to draw a connection with global warming, mentioning there were exceptionally high temperatures recorded at the time and “coincidental with heat-stressed coral bleaching”.  Coral bleaching attributed to global warming was being tearfully pushed by Duke’s colleague Terry Hughes. Hughes’ catastrophic global warming narrative is now being refuted by the rapidly rebounding Great Barrier Reef corals. Such good news might be the driving force for Duke and the BBC to resurrect a catastrophic mangrove narrative to protect and support inane climate crisis narratives.

Duke (2017) had noted mangrove losses and retreat were linked to drought,

decreased precipitation and temporary drops in sea level. All those weather conditions, including warmer temperatures due to reduced cloud cover, are all associated with El Nino events, as warm tropical waters slosh eastward across the Pacific. Falsely, the BBC, ABC and Duke are now oddly claiming the mangrove die-off and El Nino connection is newly discovered.

But others had also reported the El Nino effect at least 5 years ago. Lovelock (2017) in Mangrove dieback during fluctuating sea levels wrote “During El Niño, weak equatorial trade winds cause the thermocline to shoal in the tropical western Pacific and the presence of cool water results in sea levels that can be lower by 20–30 cm”. “Because both low sea level and low rainfall co-occur during El Niño years in the Indo-Pacific region, intensification of ENSO in the coming decades with climate change may be particularly unfavorable for productivity of mangrove forest ecosystems.”

Still the BBC and Duke doubled down on a climate crisis connection with transparent idiocy and sleight of hand. They seamlessly switched from blaming a natural fall in sea level for the die-off, to expressing concern that rising sea levels from global warming would hinder mangrove recovery. Yet that desperate claim is easily refuted, and in fact has been refuted already in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

In 2016 Asbridge published “Mangrove response to environmental change in Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria”. That study concluded, “increased amounts of rainfall and associated flooding and sea level rise were responsible for recent seaward and landward extension of mangroves in this region.”For the period1987–2014, “mangroves were observed to have extended seawards by up to1.9 km (perpendicular to the coastline), with inland intrusion occurring along many of the rivers and rivulets in the tidal reaches.”

But such knowledge did not prevent Duke and the BBC from descending into the depths of stupidity and call for paradoxical, useless and expensive remedies to “save” the mangroves. Duke wants to water the mangroves from the air or from ships to prevent them from drying and dying. The rationale for such stupidity: mangroves store carbon. They worried that the mangrove die-off released “1 million tonnes of carbon into the air”, and the ABC added that’s the “equivalent to 1,000 jumbo jets flying return from Sydney to Paris.”  But mangroves have naturally dried and died before. No wonder great scientists like Longhurst fear the current perversion of science driven by climate alarmism.

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August 15, 2022 6:14 pm

This is to be expected when the oceans are boiling.
Right, James Hansen?

Tom Halla
Reply to  toorightmate
August 15, 2022 6:17 pm

Or at least risen enough to drown lower Manhattan. I thought it was supposed to be sea level rise that was tied to CO2?

Reply to  Tom Halla
August 15, 2022 9:45 pm

Sydney Opera House, Port Jackson, Sydney Harbour was predicted to go under water by 2000.

It doesn't add up...
August 15, 2022 6:16 pm

Surely the BBC missed a trick? If sea levels fall in the Gulf of Carpenteria in el Niño conditions they must rise elsewhere. They don’t tell us about that. Plus I can’t help suspecting that they were attracted to the story about man-groves – got to be responsible for climate change in their book for sure.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  It doesn't add up...
August 15, 2022 8:42 pm

If sea levels fall in the Gulf of Carpenteria in el Niño conditions they must rise elsewhere.

Not necessarily, if the fall was the result of thermosteric contraction of the water from cooling, which Jim addresses with the quote, “During El Niño, weak equatorial trade winds cause the thermocline to shoal in the tropical western Pacific and the presence of cool water results in sea levels that can be lower by 20–30 cm”..

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 15, 2022 9:01 pm

Nonetheless, the fall in sea level around Australia was linked to the rise in sea level around the America’s west coast

spangled drongo
Reply to  Jim Steele
August 16, 2022 2:20 am

Yes, Jim, in a big ocean like the Pacific with a huge distance from east to west in both hemispheres, the trade winds [which blow from east to west] normally mound up the sea levels to the west and when the trades reduce in velocity these “sea mounds” rush back to where they were blown from.
Ocean currents almost always travel in the opposite direction to prevailing winds anyway.
It’s just that they travel faster the more the prevailing wind wind drops.

spangled drongo
Reply to  Jim Steele
August 16, 2022 2:46 am

Yes, Jim, in a big ocean like the Pacific with a huge distance from east to west in both hemispheres, the trade winds [which blow from east to west] normally mound up the sea levels to the west and when the trades reduce in velocity these “sea mounds” rush back to where they were blown from [the west coast of the Americas].
Ocean currents almost always travel in the opposite direction to prevailing winds anyway.
It’s just that they travel faster the more the prevailing wind wind drops.

Lewis P Buckingham
August 15, 2022 6:22 pm

Well if they come up to Port Macquarie the mangroves are booming as are the frogs.,lf_ui:1&tbm=lcl&rflfq=1&num=10&rldimm=12849263119031370375&lqi=ChhQb3J0IG1hY3F1YXJpZSBtYW5ncm92ZXNIvaGx062vgIAIWiAQAhgAGAEiGHBvcnQgbWFjcXVhcmllIG1hbmdyb3Zlc5IBD25hdHVyZV9wcmVzZXJ2ZZoBI0NoWkRTVWhOTUc5blMwVkpRMEZuU1VSRk4zUklUVlozRUFFqgEREAEqDSIJbWFuZ3JvdmVzKAA&phdesc=pNkcp_LOwc8&ved=2ahUKEwitjJDdmMr5AhUH8DgGHfayBVwQvS56BAgKEAE&sa=X&rlst=f#rlfi=hd:;si:12849263119031370375,l,ChhQb3J0IG1hY3F1YXJpZSBtYW5ncm92ZXNIvaGx062vgIAIWiAQAhgAGAEiGHBvcnQgbWFjcXVhcmllIG1hbmdyb3Zlc5IBD25hdHVyZV9wcmVzZXJ2ZZoBI0NoWkRTVWhOTUc5blMwVkpRMEZuU1VSRk4zUklUVlozRUFFqgEREAEqDSIJbWFuZ3JvdmVzKAA,y,pNkcp_LOwc8;mv:[[-31.426206599999997,152.9266901],[-31.460611399999998,152.8137974]];tbs:lrf:!1m4!1u3!2m2!3m1!1e1!1m4!1u2!2m2!2m1!1e1!2m1!1e2!2m1!1e3!3sIAE,lf:1,lf_ui:1

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Lewis P Buckingham
August 15, 2022 8:44 pm

Is this an encrypted message from an alien civilization?

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 16, 2022 10:30 am

It’s Google, Clyde, so yes.

Reply to  Lewis P Buckingham
August 15, 2022 9:47 pm

I spent many hours boating on Heavy Bay Queensland including the Sandy Straits between the mainland and Fraser Island while living in that area for a decade after retiring and the mangroves were healthy and expanding in area, as they are today I have observed while visiting.

August 15, 2022 6:29 pm

Mangroves are literally the weeds of the ocean, they propagate rapidly and in every conceivable location.

Last edited 1 month ago by Streetcred
August 15, 2022 6:32 pm

They’re crying about 74 square kilometres of natural die off yet think nothing of bulldozing thousands of square kilometres of nature across Australia to install wind and solar. And, swapping endangered species for certificates. Bloody fools.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Megs
August 22, 2022 6:25 am

I gave you a + for reaching 68 likes and hope you like the 69.
I reached a 93 on the Koonin/Ressler debate story and now try to crack the century. Geoff A

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
August 22, 2022 1:51 pm


August 15, 2022 6:56 pm

Thanks Jim, very timely, now that the GBR bleaching sc@m has received a setback, I was wondering if the mangrove scare would re-emerge.
Some years ago, as a regulator with responsibilities that included coastal protection, I was asked by the (former) proprietors of an industrial site to view a proposal to move a quantity of sand in an area where mangroves were dying off. The location was somewhere near 19°10’44” S,146°37’23.81″ E. Google Earth will show you a vast area of mangrove swamp.
The proprietors were concerned that this die-off would be attributed to them failing to manage sediment run-off. Here it is an offence to cut down mangroves, and I was involved in prosecuting one such offence.
So I understood, but could see no evidence to justify their concerns. It was obvious to me that the cause was a slight elevation in the locality; this bit was dying off, other areas were growing. mangroves are like coral; they quite happily move with changes in local coastal topography, which is easily observed. Also, the Australian tectonic plate is moving north by east at a fairly rapid rate of 70mm per annum, so perhaps one might expect some ripples from this source as well?
The assertion of the amount of CO2 released by a die-off is ludicrous. I don’t think these mangrove worriers have ever been in a mangrove swamp. Not that I advise going INTO one as they are a minefield of trip hazards and have some rather dangerous residents. Mangroves trap sediment and debris and are home to everything from juvenile fish, crustaceans, up to predators. They are a continuous churning stinking mass of growth and decay. CO2 is the least of it.

Reply to  Martin Clark
August 16, 2022 3:20 am

I remember a hot day in a Tinnie on the St Kilda mangroves foul smelly place and mozzies to carry you off, i realise migratory birds need them for a rest safety and a feed but otherwise who would miss em?

Reply to  ozspeaksup
August 17, 2022 11:46 pm

Mangrove swamps are a major nursery for juvenile fish who would be vulnerable to larger predators in the open sea. Who’d miss the mangroves? Fishermen.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Martin Clark
August 22, 2022 6:34 am

As a kid in Mackay then Townsville, we used to penetrate mangroves now and then out of curiousity or to catch mud crabs. They were most difficult and unattractive especially with no footwear. Thongs get slurped off the feet.
However, a fresh caught mud crab boiled just right in seawater and washed down with a really cold beer remains firmly at the top of my list of epicurean delights. Especially when it is free and in the wild. Geoff S

Dr. Bob
August 15, 2022 7:49 pm

Every plan to save a species requires some form of energy. Watering mangroves artificially would require significant amount of energy which in a remote area would require use of fossil fuels. But this is never discussed. It is just assumed that there is sufficient low-cost renewable energy available anywhere it is needed.

August 15, 2022 8:08 pm

Find an isolated or infrequent sign of nature upheaval and propagate it as the new normal.

August 15, 2022 8:14 pm

The deception is even worse than this article says.

Mangrove specialist Dr Norman Duke attributed the episodic 2015 die-off to a 40 cm drop in sea level for 6 months due to an El Nino” – yes that’s correct. And the very same 40 cm drop in sea level also caused the bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). So the BBC & ABC’s Disturbing Fearmongering with Scientific Dishonesty and Idiocy extends beyond the mangroves in the Gulf of Carpentaria and covers the GBR as well.
Heads need to roll, but the only things rolling are sane people’s eyes.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
August 15, 2022 8:53 pm

I probably should have emphasized that more, Mike. I first learned about the mangrove die-off after blogging in 2016 regards how El Nino had caused the bleaching in the northern Great Barrier Reef. Peter Ridd let me know about the simultaneous mangrove die-off.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jim Steele
August 15, 2022 8:26 pm

How can these people show their face in public?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Bob
August 15, 2022 8:47 pm

Some people have not shame.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 16, 2022 4:28 pm

worse they have no conscience

August 15, 2022 8:32 pm

Explorers Burke & Wills in 1861 would have appreciated a bit of die-back of the mangrove forests in North Oz –

On 9 February 1861 they reached the Little Bynoe River, an arm of the Flinders River delta, where they found they could not reach the ocean because of the mangrove swamps in their way. Burke and Wills left the camels behind with King and Gray at Camp CXIX (Camp 119), and set off through the swamps, although after 24 km (15 mi) they decided to turn back.

Stephen Mueller
Reply to  Mr.
August 15, 2022 8:48 pm

Yes, but Burke and Wills weren’t the sharpest tools in the box.

Reply to  Stephen Mueller
August 15, 2022 9:10 pm

True, but schlepping 24k though a mangrove swamp, and another 24k back to where you started is no mean feat.

No trails there to skip along while you whistle a happy tune.

The only way I’ve ever traversed a mangrove swamp was to wait for high tide and paddle my tinnie through. Worth it for the mud crabs though.

Reply to  Mr.
August 15, 2022 9:49 pm

A consider the very big dinosaurs lurking in mangrove swamps.

Reply to  Dennis
August 15, 2022 11:23 pm
Reply to  observa
August 16, 2022 9:05 am

A bigger mystery – how did they haul that humungous carcass up a muddy river bank and onto flat dry ground.

I know what difficulties I used to have with my tractor trying to pull 4ft sections of tree trunks with a third of the girth of that croc up wet grassy banks.

A 10,000 lb winch could do it, but what would you anchor it to?

Reply to  Dennis
August 16, 2022 3:24 am

Mudcrabs yuuuum

Reply to  Stephen Mueller
August 15, 2022 11:45 pm

If you’d driven from Adelaide to Karumba like I have recently you would understand what a remarkable feat of endurance into the unknown their trek was. It would cost them their lives missing the rendezvous party by hours and only King would survive to tell the tale with the help of aboriginals taking pity on him. They were all highly revered and mourned accordingly in their times and rightly so.

H. D. Hoese
Reply to  Mr.
August 16, 2022 6:11 am

Since early1990 northern Gulf of Mexico mangroves were spreading miles inland into estuaries until the severe freeze of February, 2021. A few are coming back on the central Texas coast, but there is still a lot of decaying mangrove wood forest. They were a worry because marsh birds have difficulty foraging, such as whooping cranes. Sea levels here are also peculiar and the difficulty was noted by Du Pratz in the early 18th century when they settled Louisiana. They were so thick to be a problem to fishing and access. M. Le Page Du Pratz,1774.The History of Louisiana.

Chris Hanley
August 15, 2022 9:14 pm

This publication by the United Nations University (Japan) in 1986 has several chapters on natural and human factors affecting mangroves but oddly nowhere can I find any mention of anthropogenic climate change (or similar) maybe because at that stage James Hansen et al. had not completed their global temperature rejig.

Last edited 1 month ago by Chris Hanley
August 15, 2022 9:43 pm

During the last ice age Gulf of Carpentaria was a lake, Australian Aborigines and others from land surrounding camped on the shores during that extremely cold period.

August 15, 2022 9:44 pm

While Dr.Norman Duke is bemoaning the loss of 7400 hectares of mangroves in die off on the Gulf of Carpentaria the following went apparently unnoticed-
That makes one wonder about a “die off” so small in comparison to 76000 hectares of mangroves flourishing so peacefully undiscovered in West Australia without bothersome alarmist scientists predicting their demise.
One also wonders about inaccurate LULUCL records held by the relevant Federal Department.

August 15, 2022 9:53 pm

No mention about the rainforests that covered the lands we now call Australia until about 150,000 years ago when very gradual climate change resulted in warmer and drier conditions and they were replaced over time by eucalyptus that tolerates droughts and flooding rains. And now cover about three per cent of Australia.

By the way, I noted comments about bushfires in Europe and large forests of eucalyptus imported from Australia a long time ago. Fire tolerant but also fire hazards.

a happy little debunker
August 15, 2022 11:32 pm

The area-average rainfall total for the Northern Territory in 2015 was 630 mm, 17% above the long term average

Climate believer
August 16, 2022 12:14 am

MANgrove?… surely you mean Persongrove.

Reply to  Climate believer
August 16, 2022 2:49 am

No, no: Peroffspringgrove!

August 16, 2022 1:10 am

Sea levels falling? But the greentards say they’re rising ever faster…

August 16, 2022 2:10 am

Sea level rises and the BBC gets the vapours.
Sea level falls and the BBC gets the vapours.

Just what is their idea of an ideal climate?

August 16, 2022 3:17 am

they admitted the other day is was LOW sealevels whot much for that area and the tiwi and other islands sinking, natives swearing they could see it daily poor me poor fella me send CASH

Gerry, England
August 16, 2022 6:50 am

As we say here ‘Is it true or did you hear it / see it on the BBC?’

August 16, 2022 7:07 am

Why do we get these alarming 2015 news in 2022? It sends a wrong message: the sea level rise is not as catastrophic as Rev. Al Gore says.

August 16, 2022 8:23 am

Jim ==> As you know, Caribbean sailors LOVE mangrove forests — as they form natural hurricane safe harbors. On the southern coast of Puerto Rico one finds the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve where I have sat out two hurricanes, tied tightly into small channels between the 20 foot tall mangroves, hurricane force winds whistling above but not blowing through the mangroves.

As you note, as local sea level rises, the mangroves will simply grow in the new shallow waters provided by the rise….likewise, falling sea levels create new opportunity for mangroves on the sea side.

Mangroves are very easily propagated and planted in areas where groves have been destroyed by storms etc….and naturally grow back as well.

Last edited 1 month ago by Kip Hansen
Andy Pattullo
August 16, 2022 9:12 am

The liberal left propaganda firms (i.e. media) live by the motto “don’t let facts get in the way of hysteria”.

August 16, 2022 9:52 am

So now the decline in sea level that killed mangrove forests is bad? I thought they were worried about rising sea levels. These people are seriously confused.

August 16, 2022 10:27 am

So let me get this straight, because it’s a little confusing.

Global warming, which is unnatural, causes sea levels to rise, and because of that we’re all gonna die next year … or ten years from now (I forget!).

But global warming, which is unnatural, also causes sea levels to fall, and because of that all the mangroves are gonna die right this minute … and then we’ll all be dead next year, or ten years from now (I forget!) because of those dead mangroves.

OK, now I get it – this is just the old “Heads I win, tails you lose” con.

Well, except for the fact that mangrove coastlines readily regenerate themselves within just a few years of any major temporary event – be it a sudden drop in sea level due to prevailing winds and currents (ENSO, etc.) … or due to a major hurricane … or due to a deep freeze (especially in the more northerly portions of Gulf Coast Florida).

Here in South Florida everybody knows that hurricanes come through here every now and then … and whenever they do, wherever the eyewall hits a mangrove coastline, it beats the hell out of the mangroves, via a combination of drowning them with storm surge, and stripping them of their leaves due to hurricane force winds. It’s quite obvious in every hurricane landfall here where mangroves cover most of the inland waterways, estuaries, rivers and bayous.

But then, miraculously, the mangroves immediately regenerate themselves, and within 3-4 years of a complete denudement of any section of mangrove coastline, they are back again looking as if they’d never left.

Our last hurricane landfall here in South Florida was Irma (Cat 4) in 2017, which wiped out a large part of our mangroves in the barrier islands and estuaries … but by last year (2021) the only evidence of damaged mangroves here were a few large snags left standing, completely engulfed in a very healthy and robust mangrove forest.

The same will happen to the mangroves in northern Australia.

Climate believer
Reply to  Duane
August 17, 2022 1:34 pm

Yes, depends on what variety of mangrove, but 4-6 years is all it takes to repopulate an area.

This is very well known, they’re making a mountain out of a molehill … yet again

Dave Fair
August 16, 2022 11:37 am

More official government lies.

August 18, 2022 12:11 am

 It is known however, that El Nino activity has increased over the last 6000 years as the earth cooled since the Holocene Optimum due to changes in the sun’s orbital cycles”

Surely you mean changes in the EARTH’S orbital cycles?

BTW mangroves are NOT solely a tropical plant, they grow quite happily in the tidal reaches of the rivers around Sydney which is well south of the Tropic of Capricorn.

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