Visioning the Future: Scenarios Modeling of the Florida Coastal Everglades

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Restoration, Mangroves, Peat, Climate change, Sea level rise, Resilience

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In this paper, we provide screening-level analysis of plausible Everglades ecosystem response by 2060 to sea level rise (0.50 m) interacting with macroclimate change (1.5 °C warming, 7% increase in evapotranspiration, and rainfall that either increases or decreases by 10%). We used these climate scenarios as input to the Ecological Landscape Model to simulate changes to seven interactive hydro-ecological metrics. Mangrove forest and other marine influences migrated up to 15 km inland in both scenarios, delineated by the saltwater front. Freshwater habitat area decreased by 25–30% under our two climate change scenarios and was largely replaced by mangroves and, in the increased rainfall scenario, open water as well. Significant mangroves drowned along northern Florida Bay in both climate change scenarios due to sea level rise. Increased rainfall of 10% provided significant benefits to the spatial and temporal salinity regime within the marine-influenced zone, providing a more gradual and natural adjustment for at-risk flora and fauna. However, increased rainfall also increased the risk of open water, due to water depths that inhibited mangrove establishment and reduced peat accumulation rates. We infer that ecological effects related to sea level rise may occur in the extreme front-edge of saltwater intrusion, that topography will control the incursion of this zone as sea level rises, and that differences in freshwater availability will have ecologically significant effects on ecosystem resilience through the temporal and spatial pattern of salinity changes.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Environmental Management, v. 60, issue 5, p. 989-1009