Colorado mountains
From Long-Term Data to Understanding: Toward a Predictive Ecology
2015 LTER ASM Estes Park, CO - August 30 - September 2, 2015

Updates from the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research Program

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Evelyn Gaiser
Michael Rugge
John Kominoski
Michael Heithaus
Rudolf Jaffé
René Price

The Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research (FCE LTER) program focuses on South Florida, where the expansive coastal Everglades wilderness interacts with an urban and agricultural landscape supporting 6 million human residents. The central goal of the FCE LTER is to investigate long-term social-ecological dynamics in the coastal Everglades, particularly how climate change and resource management decisions interact to influence freshwater availability, ecosystem processes, and resource utilization by people. The FCE provides an ideal milieu for studying processes controlling the exceptional sensitivity of coastal wetlands to the changing balance of freshwater and marine influences, and how socio-ecological systems respond to and mitigate the effects of climate change and freshwater allocation decisions. The third phase of the FCE program focuses on how sea-level rise (SLR) interacts with freshwater management to transform ecosystem processes and the politics of decisions.

FCE LTER study sites are arrayed along transects in two main Everglades drainages, the Taylor Slough-Panhandle (TS/Ph) and Shark River Slough (SRS), following freshwater canal inputs through marshes and mangrove forests to the Gulf of Mexico.  Everglades restoration, the largest restoration in Earth’s history, provides a landscape-scale experiment, while SLR and storm activities create a press and pulse climate template for understanding the influence of disturbance at multiple spatiotemporal scales. Current activities address four main themes: (1) the source of socio-political conflicts over water distribution, particularly in the face of accelerating SLR; (2) the effects of the balance of fresh and marine water supplies on the transformation of carbon; (3) the effects of legacies of human-modified freshwater delivery and disturbance on ecosystem processes, and; (4) the scenarios of freshwater distribution and use that maximize the human-environmental sustainability in coastal regions in the face of SLR.

This poster reviews recent progress toward these goals, including research that has: (1) quantified the rates of and uncertainties in SLR projections for our region, and unraveled the impact on hydro-political conflicts surrounding ecosystem restoration; (2) constrained the controls of salinity, nutrients, and inundation on C transformation and identified sources of uncertainty in C budgets across the coastal zone at plot-to-landscape scales; (3) unveiled novel sources of variability and non-linear trends in primary productivity, biogeochemical transformation, soil accretion, and consumer dynamics, and (4) leveraged strong partnerships with agencies, NGOs and municipalities to produce socio-ecological scenarios that maximize sustainability in this extraordinarily vulnerable coastal ecosystem.