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Conceptual Framework and Working Groups

Conceptual Framework

The FCE Conceptual Framework Depicting Hierarchical Social-Ecological Drivers of Coastal Ecosystem Development
trajectories as a function () of Ecosystem Structure & Functions (center white box), Endogenous Filters & Responses on the Social and Ecological Landscapes (blue-greenbox separated by permeable – dashed - boundary), and Exogenous Drivers of Hydrologic Presses & Pulses (outer gray box). The FCE program addresses four questions across these nested scales to reveal whether increased hydrologic pulses of both fresh and marine water supplies (lines in small white graphs) will maintain coastal ecosystems in a developing (carbon accumulating) trajectory (yellow line) as sea level rises. We hypothesize that developing trajectories will be maintained by positive feedbacks (gray arrows) of soil elevation gains relative to sea-level rise, ecosystem services to freshwater governance, and increased evapotranspiration to regional hydroclimate.

Working Groups

Working Groups are organized into the four focal areas shown in the conceptual framework.

Focal Area

Working groups


Exogenous drivers

Climate Variability & Change
Leaders: Robert Burgman & Jayantha Obeysekera

  • Overview of Research

    The Climate Variability and Change Working Group seeks to understand the externally forced and  internally generated climate variability of peninsular Florida and predict how it might change in the coming decades. To that end we analyze state of the science observational datasets and utilize numerical models to simulate and predict how South Florida’s climate may change over time.


Social landscape icon

Cultural & Economic Values
Leaders: Mahadev Bhat & Stephanie Wakefield

Water Governance
Leader: Kevin Grove

  • Overview of Research

    The Cultural & Economic Values and Water Governance working groups examine the intersection of economic and cultural valuation of ecosystem services and environmental governance in the FCE study area. Through mixed methods research, the working group develops detailed, deep knowledge of the economic, cultural and political dynamics of human-environment relations in the FCE, and synthesizes these findings with FCE environmental science to advance broad, integrative approaches to the study and management of complex social and ecological systems.


Ecological landscape icon


Hydrologic Connectivity
Leaders: René Price and Shimon Wdowinski

  • Overview of Research

    The Hydrologic Connectivity working group conducts long-term monitoring of water levels and chemistry to decipher pulses of freshwater against the press of sea level rise across the FCE landscape.

Consumer-Mediated Nutrient Transport
Leaders: Jennifer Rehage, James Nelson, & Mike Heithaus

  • Overview of Research

    The Consumer-Mediated Nutrient Transport (and Consumers) working group's research focuses on the trophic structure of FCE habitats, consumer-mediated nutrient transport, and the effects of environmental variation on consumer movement and trophic functioning.

Vegetation & Geomorphic Gradients
Leaders: Tiffany Troxler, Daniel Gann, James Morris

  • Overview of Research

    The Vegetation and Geomorphic Gradients working group will inform models of landscape vegetation and geomorphological change by combining landscape-scale optical satellite data and LiDAR data to detect vegetation dynamics, and radar observations for detection of changes in hydrologic conditions. We will couple modeled output of surface water and groundwater salinity with models of vegetation community dynamics to detect and project landscape changes in ecosystem development trajectories, including the probability of collapse. Building off plot-scale experimental and long-term data characterizing change in topographic response, in combination with vegetation and hydrologic characteristics derived from remotely-sensed data, we will establish models of landscape geomorphological change. Our plot-scale, long-term, and experimental datasets will be combined with time-series of Landsat and MODIS data to model and detect long term (>30 years) landscape-scale changes in plant communities. We will model the relationship of plant community, hydrology, and soil accretion or loss processes for different soils to facilitate spatially-explicit modeling of geomorphological processes. We will then predict elevation change for a combination of freshwater pulse and sea-level press scenarios.


Ecosystem structure icon

Abiotic Resources & Stressors
Leader: Evelyn Gaiser

Detritus & Microbes
Leaders: John Kominoski & Uli Stingl

  • Overview of Research

    The Detritus and Microbes working group focuses on long-term characterization and quantification of dissolved and particulate organic matter stocks and fluxes and associated microbial community structure and functions along productivity, salinity, and nutrient gradients of marsh, mangrove, and seagrass ecosystems.

Leader: Edward Castañeda

  • Overview of Research

    The Vegetation working group couples long-term field observations, experiments, and remote sensing tools to understand landscape vegetation and carbon dynamics in response to environmental drivers in the Florida Coastal Everglades.

Leader: Jennifer Rehage

Carbon Fluxes
Leaders: James Fourqurean & Sparkle Malone

  • Overview of Research

    The Carbon Fluxes working group evaluates patterns in vertical fluxes of mass and energy across the Everglades landscape.

Ecosystem Trajectories
Leaders: Carl Fitz & Sparkle Malone