June 6 (UPI) -- Mangroves are on the move in Florida. In recent years, the tropical trees have expanded northward as hard winter freezes along Florida's coastline become rarer.
The trees are turning salt marshes into mangrove swamps, and new research suggests the transformation offers vulnerable coastline a variety of ecological benefits.
When scientists quantified the ecological advantages offered by mangrove swamps and salt marshes in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, they found mangroves provide greater coastal protection.
Mangrove swamps proved better at breaking up potentially destructive waves, as well as curbing erosion and boosting sediment deposition.
The findings -- published in the journal Hydrobiologia -- showed the protections offered by mangrove forests were 800 percent greater than salt marshes.
"Integrating ecosystem-based approaches and ecological engineering may offer a way to mitigate and adapt to the effects of rising seas and intensifying storms," researchers wrote in their new study.
Previous studies have shown wetlands of all kinds to offer billions of dollars worth of protection against flooding and storm damages.