Possible climate change impacts on the hydrological and vegetative character of Everglades National Park, Florida
The increasing threat of global climate change is predicted to have immense influences on ecosystems worldwide, but could be particularly severe to vulnerable wetland environments such as the Everglades. This work investigates the impact global climate change could have on the hydrologic and vegetative makeup of Everglades National Park (ENP) under forecasted emissions scenarios. Using a simple stochastic model of aboveground water levels driven by a fluctuating rainfall input, we link across ENP a location's mean depth and percent time of inundation to the predicted changes in precipitation from climate change. Changes in the hydrologic makeup of ENP are then related to changes in vegetation community composition through the use of relationships developed between two publically available datasets. Results show that under increasing emissions scenarios mean annual precipitation was forecasted to decrease across ENP leading to a marked hydrologic change across the region. Namely, areas were predicted to be shallower in average depth of standing water and inundated less of the time. These hydrologic changes in turn lead to a shift in ENP's vegetative makeup, with xeric vegetative communities becoming more numerous and hydric vegetative communities becoming scarcer. Noticeably, the most widespread of vegetative communities, sawgrass, decreases in abundance under increasing emissions scenarios. These results are an important indicator of the effects climate change may have on the Everglades region and raise important management implications for those seeking to restore this area to its historical hydrologic and vegetative condition.
Todd, M.J., R. Muneepeerakul, F. Miralles-Wilhelm, A. Rinaldo, I. Rodriguez-Iturbe. 2012. Possible climate change impacts on the hydrological and vegetative character of Everglades National Park, Florida. Ecohydrology 5(3): 326-336.