The FLaSH Ecosystem Project builds upon earlier efforts to conduct benthic habitat mapping in Florida by including consideration of climate change impacts, especially ocean acidification, on living marine resources along the shelf. Scientists are studying ocean chemistry to better understand the impacts of higher levels of atmospheric CO2 on marine and coastal resources.


The Florida shelf is an ancient carbonate platform comprised of calcifying organisms such as shellfish, plankton, coral, and macroalgae. A decrease in the pH of oceans may cause physiological effects and will reduce the availability of the chemical compounds required for these organisms to create their shells and skeletons; this in turn may affect the marine food web that relies on phytoplankton as its base. The ability of these organisms to create calcium carbonate shells also has an impact on sediment production and the type of sediment present in the ecosystem (e.g., calcium carbonate vs. silica sands). The east and west shelves of Florida, bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico respectively, are comprised of both carbonate and silica sediment.

Other impacts of concern that will interact with ocean acidification and stress calcifying organisms include increased rainfall and runoff, increased frequency and severity of coastal storms, higher ocean temperatures, and rising sea levels.

This project is part of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) field research on ocean acidification. USGS is also leading similar projects in the Arctic and Caribbean regions.


With support from state and federal agencies and universities, scientists are studying the impact of global climate change on ocean chemistry. Scientists are examining baseline carbon and carbonate data and the process of biogenic calcification along the east and west shelves of Florida. Both shelves are located along a gradient of temperate and subtropical climates. Scientists are examining the distribution changes between benthic assemblages in temperate and subtropical zones to find evidence of ocean acidification effects on calcifying organisms. In addition, researchers are using satellite data to provide a view of how the Florida shelf is responding to environmental change over time.

Outcomes and Conclusions

Results of this project will inform policy and science decisions on potential remediation efforts to protect living marine resources along Florida’s shelf.

Information gathered from interviews and online resources. Last updated on 4/8/11.

Gregg, R. M. (2010). Response of Florida Shelf Ecosystems to Climate Change: The FLaSH Project [Case study on a project of the U.S. Geological Survey's St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated May 2011)

Project Contact(s)

St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center

The U.S. Geological Survey's St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center has a primary focus of investigating processes related to coastal and marine environments and their societal implications related to natural hazards, resource sustainability, and environmental change.

Scientific programs at the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center:

NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is the federal agency, a division of the Department of Commerce, responsible for the stewardship of the nation's living marine resources and their habitat. NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service is responsible for the management, conservation and protection of living marine resources within the United States' Exclusive Economic Zone (water three to 200 mile offshore).

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is the lead agency in state government for environmental management and stewardship and is one of the more diverse agencies in state government, protecting our air, water, and land. The Department is divided into three primary areas: Regulatory Programs, Land and Recreation and Planning and Management.


Scale of Project
Community / Local
Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Air temperature
Ocean acidification
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Water temperature
Climate Type
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Capacity Building
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Initiate targeted research program
Taxonomic Focus
Other Invertebrates
Effort Stage
In progress