A Land of Flowers on a Latitude of Deserts: Aiding Conservation and Management of Florida's Biodiversity by using Predictions from Downscaled AOGCM Climate Scenarios in Combination with Ecological Modeling

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The State of Florida, along with much of the southeast United States, lies along latitudes of deserts.

The State of Florida, along with much of the southeast United States, lies along latitudes of deserts
The State of Florida, along with much of the southeast United States, lies along latitudes of deserts

PROJECT COMPLETED

The Science Issue and Relevance: The State of Florida, along with much of the southeast United States, lies along latitudes of deserts. Cairo, Egypt is actually north of the city of Orlando! However, La Florida, A Land of Flowers, is very rich in terms of its biodiversity.  It has temperate species from regions to its north and tropical species from areas to the south. It is surrounded on three sides by warm waters and receives plentiful rainfall.  But how will this change as the Earth’s climate changes? What does a warming planet mean for La Florida’s richness and its biological and ecological resources? Unfortunately, Florida is also home to a variety of invasive, exotic plants and animals. What does climate change mean for them and their potential interactions with the native biodiversity? These are the questions that this project is working to answer.

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: We have developed a series of climate future-casts for Florida, and the SE US, at a very high resolution, using a method called “down-scaling.”  The climate scenarios include predictions of important variables for the biota such as precipitation, temperature and wind speed and direction. These climate outputs have been produced at hourly intervals. From these, derived climate variables of importance, such as growing degree days, and days below freezing, can be calculated. Initial results indicate that Florida will become both hotter and dryer in a warming climate.

Climate future-casts for Florida, and the SE US, at a very high resolution, using a method called “down-scaling.”
Climate future-casts for Florida, and the SE US, at a very high resolution, using a method called “down-scaling.”

Future Steps: These climate down-scaled predictions are then used as inputs to a variety of hydrological and ecological models for the region. At present hydrological models for the lower Suwannee River basin and the greater Florida Everglades are being used to assess the implications of a hotter and dryer Florida. Ecologists are using the climate data to examine potential impacts to a variety of species including the West Indian Manatee, alligator, Florida Panther, crocodile, wading birds, and a number of invasive plants. In fact, the climate future-casts can be applied to a large number of hydrologic and ecologic issues facing society in the SE US. These include water concerns in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin which runs from north of Atlanta to Apalachicola Bay in peninsular Florida. The data can be applied to any species of plant or animal in the region, be it exotic or native.

Related Project(s):  Future Impacts of Sea level rise on Coastal Habitats and Species; K.B. Langtimm

Products:

Swain, E. , Stefanova, L. and Smith, T. (2014) Applying Downscaled Global Climate Model Data to a Hydrodynamic Surface-Water. American Journal of Climate Change, 3, 33-49.

Stefanova, L., Misra, V., Chan, S., Griffin, M., O’Brien, J., and Smith III, T.J.  A proxy for high-resolution regional reanalysis for the Southeast United States: assessment of precipitation variability in dynamically downscaled reanalyses. Climate Dynamics, 2012, Volume 38, Number 11-12, Page 2449

Hydrology model, SAV suitability Maps
Hydrology model, SAV suitability Maps