University of Florida scientists say widespread deaths of palms and other trees in low-lying coastal areas have been reported since 1992. But the researchers say their latest survey shows in some areas, 66 percent of mature palms have died since 2000.
"When we (counted) last year, the change we observed was an increase in the loss of mature trees," said Smriti Bhotika, a UF doctoral student in interdisciplinary ecology.
The researchers say rising sea level is the primary cause of the coastal forest decline. And the sea level rise -- expected to accelerate as the Earth becomes warmer -- is linked with the thermal expansion of water, as well as the melting of glaciers and ice sheets.
Bhotika presented the study Monday in Memphis, during the Ecological Society of America's annual meeting.