Assessment of the Consequences of Climate Change on the South Florida Environment

EPA Grant Number: R827453
Title: Assessment of the Consequences of Climate Change on the South Florida Environment
Investigators: Harwell, Mark A. , Ault, Jerald S. , Cropper, Wendell P. , DeAngelis, Donald , Drum, Deborah , Gentile, John H. , Letson, David , Luo, Jiangang , Obeysekera, Jayantha , Ogden, John C. , Tosini, Steven , Wang, John , Wolfe, Willifred
Current Investigators: Harwell, Mark A. , Ault, Jerald S. , Cropper, Wendell P. , Gentile, John H. , Letson, David , Lirman, Diego , Luo, Jiangang , Wang, John
Institution: University of Miami , Center for Marine and Environmental Analyses , Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science , South Florida Water Management District , USGS Biological Resources Division
Current Institution: University of Miami
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: October 1, 1999 through September 30, 2002 (Extended to September 30, 2003)
Project Amount: $889,579
RFA: Integrated Assessment of the Consequences of Climate Change (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Global Climate Change , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Water , Ecosystems , Climate Change


The objective of the proposed study is to examine, using previously developed state-of-the-science simulation models, the potential effects of climate change scenarios on South Florida regional environment. Effects of the selected climate change stressors will be assessed on the following physical, ecological, and societal systems: a) regional surface and groundwater hydrology; b) freshwater runoff into coastal estuaries and associated salinity changes; c) seagrass, hardbottom, and mangrove community productivity and distributions; d) estuarine fish and invertebrate populations; e) economics of recreational fishing; f) wetlands hydroperiod in the Everglades; g) wading bird populations and other Everglades ecological attributes; h) urban and agricultural water supply; and I) urban flood control. This diverse suite of effects endpoints provides an integrated perspective on relevant risks to humans and the environment.


The proposed study will be organized using the EPA ecological risk assessment framework. This framework was substantially developed under the leadership of two CMEA co-PIs (Harwell and Gentile 1992; Gentile et al. 1993), and CMEA has conducted several projects to implement the ecological risk framework to address real-world problems (e.g., the comparative ecological risk assessment of spills of fuels in Tampa Bay [Harwell et al. 1995; Ault et al. 1995]). To assess climate change risks in South Florida, we have selected a series of significant ecological/societal endpoints that can be analyzed with simulation models that have already been developed by the co-PIs at CMEA, SFWMD, and USGS-BRD. The models include the CMEA Biscayne Bay hydrodynamic model, the CMEA Biscayne Bay Seascape model (including seagrass, hardbottom, and mangrove communities), the CMEA Fish/Shrimp Community Dynamics Model of recreationally important fish and invertebrate species, the South Florida Water Management District's South Florida Water Management Model (SFWMM), and the wading bird components of the Across Trophic Level System Simulation model (ATLSS).

Based on the ecorisk framework, the following elements will be conducted in the proposed study: 1) A series of climate change stressor scenarios will be developed; this will be done by using a series of available GCM model outputs, drawing on the extensive literature on climate change (e.g., Hougton et al. 1990), and convening a workshop of experts to develop scenarios (discussed below). 2) The suite of climatic scenarios will be input to the SFWMM to produce predictions of the resulting hydrologic conditions for the region. 3) The output from the SFWMM will be used to drive the Biscayne Bay hydrodynamic model. 4) The Biscayne Bay hydrodynamic model will simulate salinity changes for each scenario. 5) The salinity regime will be input to the Biscayne Bay Seascape model to predict changes in the productivity and distribution of seagrass, hardbottom, and mangrove communities. 6) The results for each scenario from the Seascape model and from the hydrodynamic model will be used to drive the trophodynamics model. 7) The results from the trophodynamics model will be used to drive the assessment of effects on recreational fishing in the Biscayne Bay - Florida Keys area. 8) The results from the SFWMM model will also drive the ATLSS model to predict changes in wading bird populations. 9) The results from the ATLSS model will be used to assess the societal effects of altered wading bird populations. 10) The results from the SFWMM will also be used to assess the economic effects of changes in water supply and flood control. 11) Finally, based on all of these stressor-effects analyses, the research team will prepare an overall risk assessment on the ecological and societal risks from climate change in South Florida, including an assessment of the implications of the restructuring of the C&SF on these risks, as well as an assessment of major sensitivities and uncertainties in the analyses.

Expected Results:

The proposed study will produce a series of scientific articles that delineate the risk assessment methodology used for regional-scale implications of climate change, describe the potential risks to the ecological and societal systems of South Florida, and explore the range of vulnerabilities of the region to climate change, including explicit consideration of the present state of uncertainty that exists about the specific regional physical stressors that would result from global climate change. The study will also constitute a prototype for fully integrated assessments that address all physical, ecological, and societal systems in a region, incorporating the "horizontal" (across sectors, ranging from freshwater and estuarine ecosystems to urban systems, and reflecting multiple levels of organization) and "vertical" (from climate change stressors through hydrological, ecological, and societal effects) integration called for in the EPA request for application. Issues that will be addressed in the study include: 1) an improved understanding of the current responses of the environmental and human systems to climate variability in South Florida across ecosystem types and across different time scales of variability; 2) exploration of how climate-induced changes in physical stressors would exacerbate or ameliorate those system responses to variability; 3) suggestions of relative vulnerabilities and needed coping management options; and 4) identification of important uncertainties that would suggest priorities for research and further analyses. Moreover, these results of the proposed study are expected to have particular importance to the design of the new C&SF system and/or its operational management schedules, issues that are especially timely and critical to address at this time. The vulnerability studies will highlight the relative risks to various parts of the ecological and societal systems of the region, potentially allowing assignment of priorities for risk reduction strategies. Through the partnership with SFWMD and its extensive communications network (discussed below), the results will be broadly disseminated to decision makers, stakeholders, and the general public.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 17 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 9 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

ecological risk assessment, ecological effects, societal effects, coastal ecosystems, wetlands ecosystems, recreational fisheries, ecological restoration, simulation models, coupled biophysical models., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecology, Hydrology, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, climate change, State, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecology and Ecosystems, risk assessment, South Florida, Florida Everglades, recreational fisheries, environmental monitoring, flood control, human activities, watershed, hydrologic models, agriculture, water quality, coastal ecosystems, estuarine ecosystem, fuel spills, Florida, climate variability, FLA

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001 Progress Report
  • 2002 Progress Report
  • Final Report