Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research
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Climate and Disturbance Cross-Cutting Theme
(Phase II, 2007-2012)

Low-lying south Florida is particularly susceptible to sea level rise due to climate change. It is also a hurricane-prone region. These disturbances can alter species composition and abundances either directly by removing trees and promoting species that are more resistant to perturbations, or indirectly by changing the availability of nutrients.

One way that climate change will affect the ecosystem is by altering patterns of rainfall. If rainfall is reduced, the volume of freshwater surface flow and groundwater intrusion into the estuarine ecotones will be reduced. With a shorter hydroperiod the likelihood of fires may increase. Climate change also may increase the rate of sea level rise, leading to a shift in the physical location of the estuarine ecotone. Intense hurricanes too may become more common, which can lead to nutrient enrichment in the ecotones as storm surge waters carry marine phosphorus inland.

During Phase II of the FCE-LTER project, researchers are continuing to document the long-term changes in the size and location of the estuarine ecotones in response to sea level rise, hurricanes, increased freshwater inflows, and fire. They expect that, over intermediate time scales (years to decades), the sea level rise and hurricanes will force the estuarine boundary of the ecotone landward, while increased freshwater inflows and fire will either force the freshwater boundary seaward or hold it near its current location. In the long term, though (decades to a century), scientists expect marine forces to prevail and the entire ecotone region to shift landward.

How do these factors affect people in south Florida?
Global Climate change can occur on many levels, and understanding how the Everglades Ecosystem responds to different disturbances is important for the surrounding metropolitan area of South Florida. One of the most critical issues to face future Floridians will be how to deal with any future sea-level rise, and how this change will affect the Everglades and freshwater resources for the entire region.
Boardwalk before Hurricane Wilma
Boardwalk at SRS-6 before Hurricane Wilma

Boardwalk after Hurricane Wilma
Boardwalk at SRS-6 after Hurricane Wilma. Hurricane Wilma was a category 3 storm when it passed over SRS-6.

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National Science Foundation logo This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DEB-1237517, #DBI-0620409, and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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