Environmental Management

, Volume 60, Issue 5, pp 989–1009 | Cite as

Visioning the Future: Scenarios Modeling of the Florida Coastal Everglades

  • Hilary Flower
  • Mark Rains
  • Carl Fitz


In this paper, we provide screening-level analysis of plausible Everglades ecosystem response by 2060 to sea level rise (0.50 m) interacting with macroclimate change (1.5 °C warming, 7% increase in evapotranspiration, and rainfall that either increases or decreases by 10%). We used these climate scenarios as input to the Ecological Landscape Model to simulate changes to seven interactive hydro-ecological metrics. Mangrove forest and other marine influences migrated up to 15 km inland in both scenarios, delineated by the saltwater front. Freshwater habitat area decreased by 25–30% under our two climate change scenarios and was largely replaced by mangroves and, in the increased rainfall scenario, open water as well. Significant mangroves drowned along northern Florida Bay in both climate change scenarios due to sea level rise. Increased rainfall of 10% provided significant benefits to the spatial and temporal salinity regime within the marine-influenced zone, providing a more gradual and natural adjustment for at-risk flora and fauna. However, increased rainfall also increased the risk of open water, due to water depths that inhibited mangrove establishment and reduced peat accumulation rates. We infer that ecological effects related to sea level rise may occur in the extreme front-edge of saltwater intrusion, that topography will control the incursion of this zone as sea level rises, and that differences in freshwater availability will have ecologically significant effects on ecosystem resilience through the temporal and spatial pattern of salinity changes.


Restoration Mangroves Peat Climate change Sea level rise Resilience 



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements No. DEB-1237517, Grant No. DBI-0620409, and Grant No. DEB-9910514. This is contribution number 840 from the Southeast Environmental Research Center at Florida International University. We would like to thank Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera and Jenifer Barnes of Hydrologic & Environmental Systems Modeling, South Florida Water Management District, for providing results of simulation runs of the South Florida Water Management Model. The performance assessments of our Everglades Landscape Model would not have been possible without the long-term monitoring data sets provided by the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Everglades Research Program. In particular we appreciate Dr. Evelyn Gaiser and Dr. Daniel Childers for sharing their extensive long term water quality data sets from Shark River Slough (Gaiser and Childers 2016). We also appreciate Dr. Tiffany Troxler for sharing her extensive long term water quality data sets from Taylor Slough (Troxler 2017a; Troxler 2017b; Troxler and Childers 2008).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of GeosciencesUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  2. 2.EcoLandMod, Inc.Fort PierceUSA

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