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Workshop Examines Effects of a Rising Sea on Natural Systems of the Florida Everglades

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One of Tom Smith's study sites on the Lostmans River in Everglades National Park, where mangroves are moving into a black needlerush marsh.
Above: One of Tom Smith's study sites on the Lostmans River in Everglades National Park, where mangroves are moving into a black needlerush marsh. This site contains a hydrology station for measuring surface and groundwater levels, temperature, and conductivity (related to salinity), as well as Surface Elevation Tables (SETs) for measuring changes in the elevation of wetland sediment. [larger version]

Mangroves killed by storm surge during Hurricane Wilma
Above: Mangroves killed by storm surge during Hurricane Wilma (2005) along the Everglades National Park coastline. Rising sea level exacerbates the effects of storm surge. [larger version]

More than 70 scientists and engineers from federal, state, and local agencies, universities, companies, and nonprofit organizations gathered in South Florida in April 2011 to participate in the workshop "Influence of Sea Level Rise on Natural Systems of the Greater Everglades." Sponsored by the Florida Center for Environmental Studies, Florida Sea Grant, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the meeting was held April 5-7 at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

According to Florida Center for Environmental Studies Director Leonard Berry, the event was "no ordinary workshop, but a brainstorming session over three days" with the goal of better understanding the effects of sea-level change on the Greater Everglades and integrating those effects into conceptual ecological models. These models are planning tools used to identify major factors influencing natural systems and to show how those factors interact (for example, see The workshop findings are expected to aid Everglades restoration in the face of current and future sea-level change.

USGS supervisory ecologist Ronnie Best, coordinator of the USGS Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Science program, served on the planning committee, as did Barry Rosen, a biologist in the USGS Office of the Regional Executive-Southeast Area focusing on Everglades restoration.

The first half of the workshop was designed to provide participants with a common understanding of the changes in weather, hydrology, and sea-level rise anticipated as a result of climate change in South Florida. Of the 15 USGS scientists who attended, 7 gave talks during this part of the workshop.

USGS research geologist Tom Cronin presented "A 10-Minute Primer on Rapid Sea-Level Rise" in the session "Big-Picture Perspective." In the same session, USGS Mendenhall Research Fellow Joseph Long spoke about "Dramatic Events: Hurricanes, Storm Surges, and Other Pulse-Driven Events."

USGS research hydrologist Eric Swain presented "Modeling Sea-Level Rise and CERP [Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan] Implementation" in the session "Hydrologic Response."

USGS research ecologist Tom Smith opened the session "Biotic Response" with a talk titled "Coastal Communities—Mangroves: Sea-Level Rise, Hurricanes, Cold Weather, What Next?" In the same session, USGS research geologist Debra Willard spoke on "Everglades Hydrologic and Biologic Response to Sea-Level Rise." USGS biologist Barry Rosen presented "Overview of CEMs [conceptual ecological models]: Drivers, Stressors, and Link to Ecological Effects and Attributes," and USGS geologist Lynn Wingard spoke about "MARES [Marine and Estuarine Goal Setting for South Florida] CEMs for Southwest Florida's Coastal Wetlands and Impact of Sea-Level Rise on the Coastal Environment."

During the second half of the workshop, participants broke into discussion groups to consider in greater detail the anticipated effects of climate change and sea-level rise on Everglades ecosystems and to generate ideas on how to reduce negative impacts. The findings of each discussion group served as the basis for updating conceptual ecological models and may be used to guide future monitoring activities.

USGS participants in addition to those named above were ecologist Don DeAngelis, research ecologist Kristen Hart, research ecologist Karen McKee, supervisory wildlife biologist Kenneth Rice, ecologist Stephanie Romañach, research ecologist Hardin Waddle, and research wildlife biologist Susan Walls.


Related Web Sites
Conceptual Ecological Models
Coastal Louisiana Ecosystem Assessment and Restoration

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Alaska Sea Otter Expedition Investigates Coastal Health

Field Journal: Pacific Nearshore Project Alaska Expedition

Meetings Coastal Sediments '11

Workshop Examines Effects of Sea-Level Change on Everglades

Staff Solar-Heating System Reduces Environmental Footprint

Summer Intern Processes Underwater Video

Publications New Book Offers Comprehensive Description of Gulf of Mexico Geology

July 2011 Publications U. S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
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Updated May 06, 2014 @ 02:13 PM (JSG)