Past and Future Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Coastal Habitats and Species (FISCHS)

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USGS aims to integrate biological and hydrological models to help develop management tools to deal with the projected ecological consequences of rising sea level in coastal south Florida.

Past and Future Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Coastal Habitats and Species
Coastal south Florida


The Science Issue and Relevance: The objective of this project is to integrate biological and hydrological models to develop management tools to deal with the projected ecological consequences of rising sea level in coastal south Florida.  Our methodology and results are directly applicable to future-casting effects of sea level rise, storm surge events, and climate change on changes in coastal vegetation.  This has direct relevance for southern Florida, but is applicable to many tropical and subtropical coastlines. It is also applicable to future-casting and hind-casting the effects of local alterations in coastal hydrology by natural or human induced actions and to effects of tsunamis on low lying islands and coastal areas.  Techniques can be used to identify water-management schemes that best maintain coastal ecosystems under projected sea level rise and climate change.

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: To develop a realistic suite of predictive tools, we are (1) mapping the position of the mangrove-marsh ecotone at selected locations for six time periods, determining rates of change and relating those rates to rates of sea-level rise;  (2) developing new mechanistic models of coastal vegetation change and determine thresholds and tipping points for change; (3) incorporating episodic disturbance from hurricanes to identify its impact on hydrology and vegetation; (4) enhancing a coupled surface-water/ground-water hydrologic model to reliably hind-cast multi-decadal observed sea level rise, hurricane effects, and vegetation change; (5) developing future-casting capability under projected climate change, SLR, and restoration scenarios, and (6) using the hydrologic models to simulate variables for spatially-explicit population and habitat suitability index models for application to management problems.

Future Steps:  At the end of the five-year project we will have published on two theoretical models that extend our understanding of mechanisms of vegetation regime change with SLR and storm surge.  Modeling will be extended to address effects of SLR, storm surge, and tsunamis on vegetation on Pacific islands.  Completion of a hind-cast model will provide hydrological output to further test hypotheses of mechanisms of change and to estimate rates of past change.  The working future-cast model will provide a strong foundation to build user-defined scenarios of future conditions and processes that will be useful to management and wetlands restoration in the Greater Everglades.   

Related Project(s): La Florida regional climate downscaling project, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the Picayune Strand Restoration, Across Trophic Level System Simulation (ATLSS)  

Publications (USGS authors in bold):


(1) Langtimm, C.A., Smith, T.J. III, DeAngelis, D.L., Swain, E.D., Krohn, M.D., and Stith, B.M., 2009,  Progress Update - FY2009: Past and Future Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Coastal Habitats and Species in the Greater Everglades — An Integrated Modeling Approach:  Peer Reviewed update on SLR project to Bea Van Horne, Ecosystems Mapping and Ronnie Best, GEPES.

Past and Future Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Coastal Habitats and Species
This research has direct relevance for southern Florida, but is applicable to many tropical and subtropical coastlines.


(2) Barr, J.G., Engel, V., Fuentes, J.D., Zieman, J.C., O’Halloran, T.L., Smith, T.J., III & Anderson, G.H. 2010. Seasonal Controls on mangrove forest-atmosphere carbon dioxide exchanges in western Everglades National Park. Journal of Geophysical Research. v. 115, G02020, doi:10.1029/2009JG001186.

(3) Fourqurean, J.W., Smith, T.J., III, Possley, J., Collins, T.M., Lee, D., & Namoff, S., 2010, Are mangroves in the tropical Atlantic ripe for invasion? Exotic mangrove trees in the forests of South Florida.  Biological Invasions, v. 12, p. 2509-2522. DOI 10.1007/s10530-009-96608.

(4) Rivera-Monroy, V.H., Twilley, R.R., Davis, S.E., III, Childers, D.L., Simard, M, Chambers, R., Jaffe, R., Boyer, J.N., Rudnick, D., Zhang, K., Castañeda-Moya, E., Ewe, S., Price, R.M., Coronado-Molina, C., Ross, M., Smith, T.J., III, Michot, B., Meselhe, E., Nuttle. W., Troxler, T. & Noe, G.B.   2010. The Role of the Everglades Mangrove Ecotone Region (EMER) in Regulating Nutrient Cycling and Wetland Productivity in South Florida.  Critical Reviews in Environmental Science & Technology, v. 41, Suppl. 1, p. 633-669.

(5) Smith, T.J., III, Tiling-Range, G., Jones, J., Nelson, P., Foster, A., and Balentine, K., 2010, The use of historical charts and photographs in ecosystem restoration: examples from the Everglades Historical Air Photo Project, in Cowley, D.C., Standring, R.A., and Abicht, M.J., eds., Landscapes through the lens: aerial photographs and the historic environment:  Occasional Publication of the Aerial Archaeology Research Group, No. 2, Oxford, UK, Oxbow Books, p. 179-191.

(6) Swain, E.D., and Decker, J.D., 2010, A Measurement-Derived Heat-Budget Approach For Simulating Coastal Wetland Temperature With a Hydrodynamic Model; Wetlands, 30(3), Pages 635-648.


(7) DeAngelis, D.L., Jiang, J., Teh, S.Y., Koh, H.L., Smith, T.J., Langtimm, C.A., Swain, E.D., Krohn, M.D., and Stith, B.M., 2011, Modeling the effects of storm surges, in Koh, H.L., Liu, P.L-F., and Teh, S. Y. eds., Tsunami simulation for impact assessment, Proceeding Series, Penerbit Universiti Sains, Malaysia, Pulau Pinang, p. 8-18. 

(8) Martin, J., Fackler, P.L., Nichols, J.D., Lubow, B.C., Eaton, M.J., Runge, M.C., Stith, B.M., and Langtimm, C.A., 2011, Structured decision making as a proactive approach to dealing with sea level rise in Florida: Climatic Change, v. 107, p. 185-202.

(9) Misra, V., Moeller, M., Stefanova, L., Chan, S., O’Brien, J.J., Smith, T.J., III, & Plant, N. 2011. The Influence of the Atlantic Warm Pool on the Florida Panhandle Sea Breeze. Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 116: D00Q06, doi:10.1029/2010JD015367, 2011.

(10) Saha, A.K., Saha, S., Sadle, J., Jiang, J., Ross, M.S., Price, R.M., Sternberg, L.S.L.O., and Wendelberger, K.S., 2011, Sea level rise and south Florida coastal forests: Climatic Change, v. 107, p. 81-108. 

(11) Stith, B.M., Reid, J.P., Langtimm, C.A., Swain, E.D.,  Doyle, T.J., Slone, D.H., Decker, J.D., and Soderqvist, L.E., 2011, Temperature inverted haloclines provide winter warm-water refugia for manatees in southwest Florida: Estuaries and Coasts, v. 34, p. 106-119.


(12) Barr, J.G., Smith, T.J., III, Fuentes, J.D. & Engel, V., 2012, Hurricane disturbance and recovery of energy balance, CO2 fluxes and canopy structure in a mangrove forest of the Florida Everglades. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, v. 153, p. 54-66. Doi: 10.1016/j.agformet.2011.07.022

(13) Jiang, J., DeAngelis, D. L.,  Smith, T. J.  III, Teh, S. Y.,  and Koh, H. L., 2012,  Spatial pattern formation of coastal vegetation in response to external gradients and positive feedbacks affecting soil porewater salinity:  a model study.  Landscape Ecology, v. 27, p.109-119.

(14) Jiang, J., Gao, D., and DeAngelis, D. L., 2012, Towards a theory of ecotone resilience:  Coastal vegetation on a salinity gradient.  Theoretical Population Biology 82:29-37.

(15) Saha, A.K., Moses, C.S., Price, R.M., Engel, V., Smith, T.J., III & Anderson, G., 2012, A hydrological budget (2002-2008) for a large subtropical wetland ecosystem indicates marine groundwater discharge accompanies diminished freshwater flow.  Estuaries and Coasts, v. 35, p. 459-474.

(16) Stefanova, L., Misra, V., Chan, S., O’Brien, J.J., Griffin, M. & Smith, T.J., III, 2012, A proxy for high-resolution regional reanalysis for the southeast United States:  Assessment of precipitation variability.  Climate Dynamics, Online, DOI 10.1007/s00382-011-1230-y

(17) Zhang, K., Liu, H., Li, Y, Xu, H., Shen, J., Rhome, J., Smith, T.J., III, 2012, The role of mangroves in attenuating storm surges.  Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science v.102-103, p. 11-23.

(18) Lohmann, M. A., Swain, E. D., Wang, J. D., and Dixon, J. F., 2012, Evaluation of effects of changes in canal management and precipitation patterns on Biscayne Bay, Florida salinity, using an integrated surface-water groundwater model: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012-5099, 94p.

(19) Jiang, J., Mangroves on the move: predictions of storm surge effects on coastal vegetation.  Dissertation, University of Miami, Department of Biology, May 2012. 

(20) Stith, B.M., D.H. Slone, M. de Wit, H.H. Edwards, C.A. Langtimm, E.D. Swain, L.E. Soderqvist, and J.P. Reid, 2012, Passive thermal refugia provide warm water for Florida manatees during severe winter of 2009/2010. Marine Ecology Progress Series 462:287-301.


(21) Decker, J., Swain, E.D., Stith, B.M., and Langtimm, C.A., 2013, Assessing factors affecting thermal properties of a passive thermal refuge using three-dimensional hydrodynamic flow and transport modeling.  Journal of Waterway, Port, Coastal, and Ocean Engineering 139(3):209-220.

(22) Smoak, J.M., Breithaupt, J., Smith, T.J., III, and Sanders, C.J., 2013, Sediment accretion and organic carbon burial relative to sea-level rise and storm events in the mangrove forests of Everglades National Park: Catena, 104:58-66.

(23) Jiang, J., and D. L. DeAngelis. 2013. Strong species-environment feedback shapes plant community assembly along environmental gradients. Ecology and Evolution. doi:10.1002/ece3.784.

(24) Jiang, J., D. L. DeAngelis, G. H. Anderson, and T. J. Smith, III, 2013, Analysis and simulation of propagule dispersal and salinity intrusion from storm surge on the movement of a marsh-mangrove ecotone in South Florida. Estuaries and Coasts (Published on-line: DOI:10.1007/s12237-013-9666-4).


(25) Swain, E., L. Stefanova, and T. Smith, 2014, Applying downscaled global climate model data to a hydrodynamic surface-water and groundwater model.  American Journal of Climate Change 3:33-49.


(26) Zajac, Z., B. Stith, A. Bowling, C. Langtimm, E. Swain, 2015, Evaluation of habitat suitability index models by global sensitivity and uncertainty analysis: a case study for submerged aquatic vegetation: Ecology and Evolution, 5(13):2503-2517.

(27) Swain, E.D., M.D. Krohn, C.A. Langtimm, 2015, Numerical computation of hurricane effects on historic coastal hydrology in southern Florida. Ecological Processes 4:4 DOI: 10.1186/s13717-014-0028-3