Climate change prompts a rethink of Everglades management

first_img Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Rising sea levels threaten the diverse ecology of the Everglades. Climate change prompts a rethink of Everglades management Email Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Efforts to restore the rich ecology of the Florida Everglades have so far focused on fighting damage from pollutant runoff and reestablishing the natural flow of water. But now, an expert panel is calling for federal and state agencies to reassess their plans in light of threats from climate change and sea-level rise. A congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, released on 16 October, asks the managers of the 18-year-old Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) to conduct a “midcourse assessment.” The new evaluation should account for likely conditions in the wetlands in “2050 and beyond” and model how existing restoration projects would fare under various sea-level rise scenarios.“I use the analogy of a hockey player,” says environmental economist William Boggess at Oregon State University in Corvallis, who is chair of the panel behind the new report. “Maybe we should be skating to where the puck is going to be rather than where it is right now.”The Everglades watershed once included more than 1 million hectares of wetlands, sawgrass plains, and tree islands across southern Florida, but agriculture and human settlement have shrunk that habitat by half. Phosphorus from agricultural runoff has killed sawgrass that thrives in the Everglades’ naturally low-phosphorus conditions. In its place, dense cattail habitats have sprung up, choking off water access for animals and birds. Eighty plant and animal species in the larger region are now threatened or endangered.center_img Scott Leslie/Minden Pictures Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe By Richard BlausteinOct. 19, 2018 , 12:15 PM CERP, established by Congress in 2000, is a multidecadal effort to restore and better manage the Everglades, jointly run and funded by the federal government and the state of Florida. For the past 5 years, they’ve been jointly putting an average of $230 million per year into CERP projects, including efforts to eradicate invasive exotic plants and restore water patterns of water flow through the wetlands.But the new report points to a different set of concerns arising for the region: Sea levels have risen approximately 7 centimeters since 2000, and Southern Florida expects a 0.8-meter rise by 2100. Saltwater can have complicated and contradictory effects. It inundates plant life and degrades their roots, which promotes erosion, but it can also keep microbes from decomposing plant matter, which leads to a buildup of soil. Changing patterns of erosion and water surges could complicate CERP projects such as an effort to manage how fresh and saltwater are distributed across Biscayne Bay on Florida’s east coast.To account for the impacts of climate change, CERP should incorporate the most recent climate models, and should appoint an independent “Everglades lead scientist,” the report says, to make sure these models inform all CERP projects.Lake Okeechobee, the largest water source in the Everglades system, gets its own chapter in the report. The lake feeds estuaries and wetlands to the south, and is home to the Everglade snail kite, an endangered bird of prey. The report recommends closer monitoring and research on the lake’s levels to inform a new regulatory plan. Low water levels can minimize dangerous flooding and foster submerged vegetation. High levels, which ensure water for human use and natural preserves southward, also spread contaminants to cleaner shallow zones.The report also discusses tentative plans to add nearly 350 million cubic meters of surface storage and 80 aquifer storage and recovery wells around Lake Okeechobee. That would help managers control water levels, notes ecologist Paul Gray, science coordinator for Audubon Florida’s Everglades restoration program in Lorida, who was not on the report committee. But competing demands on the water supply from communities, agriculture around the lake, and the wetlands to the south could complicate the management efforts, he says. “We are trying to restore a whole ecosystem, not just move the harm from one part of the ecosystem to another.”last_img

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