Date of Award

2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Dr.Evelyn Gaiser

Abstract

Many coastal wetland communities of south Florida have been cut off from freshwater sheet flow for decades and are migrating landward due to salt-water encroachment. A paleoecological study using mollusks was conducted to assess the rates and effects of salt-water encroachment due to freshwater diversion and sea level rise on coastal wetland basins in Biscayne National Park. Modem mollusk distributions taken from 226 surface sites were used to determine local habitat affinities which were applied to infer past environments from mollusk distributions found in soil cores. Mollusks species compositions were found to be strongly correlated to habitat and salinity, providing reliable predictions. Wetland soils were cored to bedrock at 36locations. Mollusks were abundant throughout the cores and 15 of the 20 most abundant taxa served as bioindicators of salinity and habitat. Historic accounts coupled with mollusk based inference models indicate (1) increasing salinity levels along the coast and encroaching into the interior with mangroves communities currently migrating westward, (2) replacement of a mixed graminoid-mangrove zone by a dense monoculture of dwarf mangroves, and (3) a confinement of freshwater and freshwater graminoid marsh to landward areas between urban developments and drainage canals.

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