Colorado mountains

Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research Program: Overview of FCE III

Poster Number: 
Presenter/Primary Author: 
Evelyn Gaiser
Michael G. Rugge

The Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research (FCE LTER) site is located in South Florida, where the expansive coastal Everglades wilderness interacts with an urban and agricultural landscape containing 6 million human residents. FCE researchers are examining how changes in climate, particularly sea level rise and storms, influence ecosystem processes through interactions with human activities, especially large-scale hydrologic restoration. Long-term study sites are arrayed along transects in two main Everglades drainages, the Taylor Slough-Panhandle (TS/Ph) and Shark River Slough (SRS), folowing freshwater canal inputs through marshes and mangrove forests to the Gulf of Mexico. Research at these sites has shown how coastal estuaries in limestone-based systems are functionally "upside-down": the highly oligotrophic marshes of the coastal zone receive the limiting nutrient (phosphorus) from marine, rather than upstream, sources. Pulses of marine nutrients from groundwater during dry periods or in surface water during high tides and storm surges control the dynamics of mangrove forests, which FCE researchers have shown to be among the most productive on the planet. Aquatic animal communities respond to associated pulses of salinity and food, and are important mobile vectors of matter and energy. FCE research is couched in a large experimental design framework necessitating anthropological and political studies of human activities. Hydrologic restoration activites are expected to improve water flow through the SRS transect, while only minor changes are anticipated for the TS transect. Modeling activities use shorter term (pulse) data to parameterize long-term models to project ecosystem responses to hydrologic restoration, particularly under scenarios of global climate change. FCE III science will examine how decisions about freshwater delivery to the Everglades influence - and are influenced by - the impact of sea level rise in this especially vulnerable landscape. Biophysical studies will focus on how this balance of fresh and marine sources influences biogeochemical cycling, primary production, organic matter dynamics, and trophic dynamics, to drive carbon gains and losses. FCE scientists view South Florida as an exemplary system for understanding how and why socio-ecological systems resist, adapt to, or mitigate the effects of climate change on ecosystem sustainability. Powerful long-term datasets and experiments are employed at an expanded spatial scale to determine legacies of past interactions, and to constrain models that will help guide a sustainable future for the FCE.

Background Photo by: Nicole Hansen - Jornada (JRN) LTER