Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise in the Florida Panhandle and Coastal Alabama

Created: 12/18/2010 - Updated: 3/02/2020

Summary

The Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise (EESLR) project in the Florida Panhandle and Coastal Alabama is intended to improve scientific understanding of the factors and scales necessary to evaluate shore zone modification and help develop a predictive tool of ecosystem modification due to sea level rise. The first step in this project was a workshop, Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise in the Florida Panhandle and Coastal Alabama, which identified relevant research questions and information needed to advance knowledge and predictions of sea level rise and erosion along the coast. The workshop also outlined a research strategy to address these needs.

Background

A pilot EESLR project began in North Carolina in 2005, and is currently in its final stages with results now available. Based on its success, NOAA’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR), through its EESLR Program, funded a new project looking at the effects of sea level rise on the Florida Panhandle and Coastal Alabama. Sea level rise is predicted to have significant impacts on the condition and distribution of coastal habitats, as well as living marine organisms and human systems dependent on these ecosystems. Managers and planners need accurate information, models, and long-term predictions about the ecological effects of sea level rise in order to understand what management and policy decisions are needed to protect these resources.

To prepare for this new EESLR project, CSCOR convened a Steering Committee of experts and hosted a workshop to identify relevant scientific data and knowledge and to determine management needs in response to sea level rise and erosion along the Florida Panhandle and Alabama coast.

Implementation

The workshop was held in January 2008, and included local and national scientists and managers. The workshop was divided into five topical groups to facilitate discussions among the attendees. These groups included: (1) geomorphology and physical processes; (2) subtidal habitats; (3) terrestrial biological resources; (4) water quality and hydrology; and (5) modeling. Groups discussed habitats, species, processes, existing research, management initiatives, and research and modeling needs with regard to sea level rise. An additional group was focused on management perspectives in Florida and Alabama.

Based on information compiled at the workshop, the Steering Committee produced a white paper, NOAA Workshop: Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise in the Florida Panhandle and Coastal Alabama: Research and Modeling Needs, outlining the consensus of workshop attendees regarding (1) the requirements for scientific information and predictions, and (2) a research strategy to address the scientific requirements.

General strategies recommended included:

  • Perform targeted studies of biological and physiological tolerances to changes from anticipated sea level rise to inform biophysical models;
  • Utilize historical understanding of community retreat and migration associated with changes in sea level;
  • Improve understanding of benthic, nearshore, and upstream habitat connectivity, including saltwater-freshwater interface;
  • Improve understanding of the present and future distribution of habitats and the ability of species to migrate;
  • Use standardized parameters to help drive models as well as catalog potential areas for retreat and restoration; and
  • Ensure adequate time scales so that time scales of concern for ecological effects are as long as the time scales for planning critical infrastructure.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The EESLR Florida and Alabama Project officially began in 2010 with investigators from the University of Central Florida, Dewberry, Inc., Florida State University, Northwest Florida Water Management District, University of Florida, and the University of South Carolina. The group plans to use relevant scientific data to determine the factors and scales necessary to evaluate shore zone modification and develop a predictive tool of ecosystem modification due to sea level rise.

Status

Information was collected from online resources. Updated 12/18/10

Citation

Kershner, J. (2010). Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise in the Florida Panhandle and Coastal Alabama [Case study on a project of NOAA's Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/ecological-effects-sea-level-rise-florida-pa… (Last updated December 2010)

Project Contact(s)

The Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR) uses a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding and predicting the impacts of natural and anthropogenic influences on coastal regional ecosystems, communities, and economies.

Keywords

Scale of Project
Regional / Subnational
State / Provincial
Sector Addressed
Research
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Erosion
Flooding
Habitat extent
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Climate Type
Subtropical
Timeframe
1-3 years
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Capacity Building
Design or reform institutions
Coordinate planning and management
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Create/enhance resources and tools
Governance and Policy
Effort Stage
In progress