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