|Boardwalk at SRS-6 before (A) and after (B) Hurricane Wilma. Hurricane Wilma was a category 3 storm when it passed over SRS-6 in 2005.
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. South Florida and the Everglades are also changing as a result of human disturbance, and the legacies of freshwater drainage and develop leave lasting impacts on the ecosystem. During Phase III 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 fresh water inflows, and fire. They also want to know what social and economic processes drive land use change in areas adjacent to the coastal Everglades and how these changes affect the quantity and quality of water flowing along the project's Taylor Slough and Shark River Slough transects. Researchers are using information about past and present land use to develop conceptual models of the social process of land use change as well as predictive models of future land use change and associated societal-ecological interactions.
How do these factors affect people in south Florida?
Global 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 utilization and distribution of fresh water resources for the entire region.