Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research
Florida Coastal Everglades LTER
An Introduction to Our Research (Phase III, 2013-2018)

An Overview of the FCE LTER Program

Map of Florida Coastal Everglades LTER sites SRS-1 SRS-2 SRS-3 SRS-4 SRS-5 SRS-6 TS/Ph-1 TS/Ph-2 TS/Ph-3 TS/Ph-6 TS/Ph-7 TS/Ph-9 TS/Ph-10 TS/Ph-11 Map of Florida Coastal Everglades LTER sites
Click on a site for detailed site information.
Established in 2000, the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-term Ecological Research (FCE-LTER) project is part of the national LTER network created by the National Science Foundation in 1980 to support research on long-term ecological phenomena in the United States. Comprising 28 sites, the LTER network is a collaboration of over 1,800 scientists and students who are investigating ecological processes over long time scales and broad spatial scales. The FCE LTER program is based at Florida International University and includes over 150 senior scientists, students, and staff from over 30 institutional partners, including other universities, local, state, and federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations.

The FCE LTER program examines how global climate change and shifting approaches to water management impact the Florida Everglades and the 9 million residents in the region. By conducting persistent research in freshwater wetlands, mangrove swamps and shallow seagrass communities along two major drainage basins of the 2,358-m2 Everglades National Park, the FCE LTER employs powerful long-term datasets to determine how the amount and quality of freshwater flowing through the Everglades influences ecological processes. These key processes include rehydration of the freshwater aquifer, which supplies the Everglades and Floridians with potable water, and carbon accretion, which buffers coastal systems from sea level rise and storm damage. Coupled socio-economic studies help reveal how decisions about Everglades restoration are made, and agency partnerships are fostered for conveyance of science into restoration policy.

The FCE LTER program is in its third phase of research (2013-2018). In Phase I (2000-2006), the program established a long-term platform for research and collaboration in the Everglades community, focusing on key ecosystem processes in the estuarine ecotone, the region where freshwater mixes with saltwater and the grassy marshes give way to mangrove forests. In Phase II (2007-2012), the program expanded studies on how changes in freshwater flow brought about by restoration activities impact ecosystem processes in the coastal zone. This interest in freshwater restoration outcomes is sustained in Phase III, but with added explorations of the importance of sea level rise in controlling long-term ecosystem dynamics in this important coastal region.

The Estuarine Ecotone

Map of Shark River Slough and Taylor Slough ecotones Map of Shark River Slough and Taylor Slough ecotones
In the Everglades, two estuarine ecotones, the Shark River Slough/Gulf of Mexico ecotone and the Taylor Slough/Florida Bay ecotone, are of interest to FCE-LTER researchers. FCE scientists discovered that the Shark River Slough ecotone is characterized by very high rates of primary productivity - or the amount of living material produced when nutrients and energy from sunlight are used to create plant tissues - relative to upstream marshes, which are naturally oligotrophic, or nutrient poor. The source of this high productivity is the phosphorus-rich water delivered by tides and storms from the neighboring Gulf of Mexico. Researchers thought that Taylor Slough would be less productive because of the reduced tidal amplitude, but discovered higher rates than expected due to groundwater intrusion into surface water through openings in the limestone bedrock. In Phase III of the FCE-LTER project, researchers are examining how freshwater flow and sea level rise interact to influence these surface and groundwater nutrient supplies, and its consequence to carbon storage in the coastal ecotones. The FCE LTER program is also trying to understand how these dynamics in the Everglades compare to other large coastal wetlands, so researchers are conducting similar studies in the Caribbean (particularly the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula) and in Shark Bay, Australia.

Everglades Restoration

The greater Everglades ecosystem, in which freshwater flows south from the Kissimmee River, through Lake Okeechobee, and into the Gulf of Mexico and Florida and Biscayne Bays, is the site of the world's largest ecosystem restoration effort. The effort aims to improve the quantity, quality, and timing of freshwater flow through the ecosystem. A major goal of Phase III of the FCE-LTER project is to investigate how decisions about Everglades restoration influence - and are influenced by - the history of dependencies of humans on local natural resources, and impressions of sustainability of these resources in the face of sea level rise.
Historic, current, and planned flow of water through the greater Everglades ecosystem.
Historic, current, and planned flow of water through the greater Everglades ecosystem. Figure modified from www.evergladesplan.org.

Research is organized into four working groups and four cross-cutting themes which address our key research questions.

Working Groups
Cross-Cutting Themes
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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-1832229, #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.
Please address questions or comments about this website to: fcelter@fiu.edu.
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