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La Florida


A Land of Flowers on a Latitude of Deserts: Aiding Conservation and Management of Florida's Biodiversity by using Predictions from Downscaled AOGCM Climate Scenarios in Combination with Ecological Modeling


T.J. Smith III1, M. Allen2, E. Chassignet3, H. Davis4, D. DeAngelis1, A. Foster1, T. Green1, W. Kitchens5, V. Misra3, P. Nelson1, F. Percival5, N. Plant6, D. Slone1, L. Stefanova3, B. Stith1, E. Swain4, D. Sumner4, A. Tihansky6, G. Tiling-Range1, S. Walls1, C. Zweig5, R. J. Pawlitz1

1Southeast Ecological Science Center, 2Dept of Fisheries and Aquaculture, University of Florida, 3Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, Florida State University, 4USGS, Florida Water Science Center, 5USGS, Florida Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit, 6USGS, Coastal and Watershed Science Center




Introduction

La Florida (Land of Flowers) straddles latitudes forming the northern hemisphere's desert belt. Orlando is one-degree latitude south of Cairo, Egypt. Florida is unique because it is a peninsula surrounded by warm water (Fig A). Florida also has a high biodiversity: 4,000+ flowering plants, including >700 trees; 90 mammals; 52 amphibians; 88 reptiles; 500 birds; 250+ freshwater fish, many of which are endangered. How will Florida's biodiversity respond to a changing climate? Which species and habitats will increase or decrease? What role does land use-land cover (LULC) change play? Answers to these questions are of critical concern to resource managers (1). To address these questions we are developing regionally down-scaled climate model predictions from three coupled Atmospheric-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCM) for Florida and the southeastern US. The climate predictions will then be used as inputs to a suite of previously developed ecological and hydrological models to assess species, communities and habitats for two study regions in Florida that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts. The study regions are the Suwannee River / Big Bend area in the north, which is a relatively undisturbed, pristine temperate system. In the south, we are working in the Greater Everglades which is a highly impacted tropical system.

Fig A - Florida lying at the same latitudes as the Sahara Desert. - click to enlarge
Fig A - Florida lying at the same latitudes as the Sahara Desert. - click to enlarge

Objective 1: Climate model downscaling


  • Downscaling three AOGCMs using the Regional Spectral Model (RSM) to .1 x .1 degree of Latitude - Longitude. The AOGCMs are the CCSMv3.0, GFDLv2.1 & HadCM3.
  • Concentrating on Florida, but downscaling for many southeastern states: AL, MS, FL, GA, SC, NC, TN (Fig B).
  • Downscaled climate outputs will include: precipitation, temperature, winds, humidity, evapotranspiration, at hourly intervals for multiple levels in the atmosphere.
  • Numerous derived climate variables will be calculated, for example: growing degree-days, frost/freeze days, extreme heat days, wild fire potential.
  • Will have time slices for: past (1871-1900), present (1971-2000) and future (2041-2070).
  • Will have several Land-Use / Land Cover Scenarios as this appears to be important in Florida and the southeastern US.
  • Assess the uncertainties that may be associated with changes in greenhouse gas concentrations and/or LULC.

(V. Misra, L. Stefanova & E. Chassignet, A. Foster, N. Plant)

Fig B - Domain for climate model downscaling. - click to enlarge
Fig B - Domain for climate model downscaling. - click to enlarge

Objective 2: Using down-scaled climate variables in hydrological models.


  • USGS has previously developed hydrological simulation models for the two Florida study areas.
  • Bales et al (2) developed a 3-D model of salt transport and flow for the lower Suwannee River and adjacent estuarine areas (Fig. C - top).
  • Wang et al (3) developed a series of simulations for flow, salinity and surface water stage for application in the Everglades restoration (Fig. C - bottom). This model is being actively used by the NPS to analyze Everglades restoration scenarios.
  • These models will be updated and run with predicted climate forcings and sea-level rise.
  • Additionally, climate predictions will be used to forecast changes in potential evapotranspiration across Florida.

(H. Davis, D. Sumner, E. Swain)

Fig C - Study regions in Florida. The domain for the Suwannee River hydrodynamic model is shown in the upper inset. The lower inset depicts the domain for the TIME model. - click to enlarge
Fig C - Study regions in Florida. The domain for the Suwannee River hydrodynamic model is shown in the upper inset. The lower inset depicts the domain for the TIME model. - click to enlarge

Objective 3: Ecological studies and modeling in the Greater Everglades area.


  • Numerous ecological models have been developed for use in the Everglades restoration including, the Across Trophic Level System Simulation (ATLSS).
  • The ATLSS ecological models are linked via a common framework of vegetative, topographic, and land use maps allowing for the necessary interaction between spatially explicit information on physical processes and the dynamics of organism response across the Everglades landscape.
  • Spatially Explicit Species Index (SESI) models have been constructed and applied to the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, the snail kite, short and long legged wading birds (Fig D), the white tailed deer, the American alligator, American crocodile, Florida manatee, two species of crayfish, and the Florida panther (4).
  • These models will use the derived climate variables from the down-scaling as inputs to produce scenarios of species and habitat responses.

(D. Deangelis, T. Green, D. Slone, T. Smith, B. Stith, S. Walls)

Fig D - Example output from ATLSS (SESI model) for short-legged wading birds. - click to enlarge
Fig D - Example output from ATLSS (SESI model) for short-legged wading birds. - click to enlarge

Objective 4: Ecological studies and modeling in the Suwannee River / Big Bend area.


  • Develop empirical relationships between coastal vegetation communities (e.g. salt marsh, pine flatwoods) and use them in models linking vegetative community responses to predicted hydrologic and climatic changes expected to occur as a result of global climate change (Fig E).
  • Fish, amphibian, small mammal and raptor community metrics will be linked to the hydrology and vegetation models.
  • SESI models developed in the Everglades will be adapted and modified for use on species of concern in the Suwannee (e.g. the endangered salt marsh vole and Gulf sturgeon) (Fig F).

(C. Zweig, M. Allen, W. Kitchens, F. Percival)

Fig E - Photo of the marsh at Shired Island, one of our sites in the Suwannee River study area. The marsh is home to the endangered Florida salt-marsh vole. Note the standing dead tree stems in the background. This is from salt water intrusion due to sea-level rise and from storm surges. - click to enlarge
Fig E - Photo of the marsh at Shired Island, one of our sites in the Suwannee River study area. The marsh is home to the endangered Florida salt-marsh vole. Note the standing dead tree stems in the background. This is from salt water intrusion due to sea-level rise and from storm surges. - click to enlarge
Fig F - A Florida salt-marsh vole captured at Shired Island. - click to enlarge
Fig F - A Florida salt-marsh vole captured at Shired Island. - click to enlarge

Objective 5: Climate envelope models for native and exotic plants


  • Florida is the northern limit for the ranges of many tropical species (e.g. gumbo limbo) and the southern range limit for many temperate ones (e.g. water hickory) (Fig G).
  • Numerous invasive exotic plants occur in Florida and the southeast US (e.g. Brazilian pepper, Chinese tallow) and have disrupted natural communities and ecosystems.
  • Climate envelope modeling, including temperature extremes for example, will be used to examine the potential for range shifts of selected native and exotic plants (Fig H).

(T. Smith, P. Nelson, G. Tiling-Range)

Fig G - The northern limit of Gumbo Limbo (red) and southern limit of Water Hickory (green) converge in Florida. - click to enlarge
Fig G - The northern limit of Gumbo Limbo (red) and southern limit of Water Hickory (green) converge in Florida. - click to enlarge
Fig H - View of Gumbo Limbo on a tree island in the Florida Everglades study area. These trees were killed in the January 2010 freeze. - click to enlarge
Fig H - View of Gumbo Limbo on a tree island in the Florida Everglades study area. These trees were killed in the January 2010 freeze. - click to enlarge

Objective 6: Database management, data dissemination, application and outreach


  • A geodatabase is being developed for storage and management of project data (Fig I).
  • Project PIs will participate in data dissemination and application workshops with resource managers from federal, state, local agencies and NGOs.
  • The first "Data Dissemination & Application Workshop" is scheduled to occur in conjunction with the Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Science conference July 2010 in Naples, Florida.

(T. Smith, A. Tihansky, G. Tiling-Range, P. Nelson, R. J. Pawlitz)

Fig I1 - An example of a database gui - click to enlarge
Fig I1 - An example of a database gui - click to enlarge
Fig I2 - An example of datarelationships - click to enlarge
Fig I2 - An example of data relationships - click to enlarge

Literature Cited:

Scott, J. 2008. Florida's Wildlife: On the front line of climate change. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at: http://myfwc.com/docs/Conservation/ClimateChange_SummitRept.pdf

Bales, J.D., Tomlinson, S.A., and Tillis, G., 2006, Flow and Salt Transport in the Suwannee River Estuary, Florida, 1999- 2000, Analysis of Data and Three-Dimensional Simulations: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1656-B, 66 p.

Wang, J.D., Swain, E.D., Wolfert, M.A., Langevin, C.D., James, D.E. and Telis, P.A. 2007. Application of FTLOADS to Simulate Flow, Salinity, and Surface-Water Stage in the Southern Everglades. USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5010.

Curnutt, J., E. Comiskey, M. Nott & L. Gross. 2000. Landscape-based spatially explicit species index models for Everglades restoration. Ecological Applications 10:1849-1860.



For more information, contact:

Tom J Smith III, Ph.D.
USGS | SESC
600 Fourth Street, South
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701
Tel: 727-803-8747 x 3130
Email: tom_j_smith@usgs.gov


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