by Chloe Soltis
Water is one of the most important environmental resources in the Florida Everglades since the area’s landscape primarily consists of freshwater wetlands. In recent years, economic and agricultural development have reshaped and redirected headwaters to flow into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico instead of the Everglades. This lack of water has left the area at risk of salt water intrusion and drought in addition to threatening its native wildlife populations. Catano et al. (2015) decided to create a model that predicts how climate change will affect the area’s different hydrologic factors and impact wildlife populations.
The Catano team created four climate scenarios for their model after analyzing weather data specifically related to the region and general circulation models (GCMs). The scenarios accounted for changes such as a 1.5 °C temperature increase, rising sea levels, and both increases and decreases in precipitation. They used the South Florida Water Management Model (SFWMM) to simulate the conditions of their four scenarios on the Everglades terrain. The team used the results from this simulation as inputs for the population models they created for the Everglades’ most prominent species: amphibians, alligators, small freshwater fish, wading birds, and apple snails. They used habitat suitability models (HSMs) for the population models because it allowed them to analyze different hydrology factors for each species, but they were still able to easily compare all end results.
The Cantano team found that decreased rainfall and increased evapotranspiration had the worst impact on all five of the animal populations. They believe that these climate conditions will make it easier for invasive and non-native species to migrate and survive in the Everglades and therefore threaten native species. The team’s hope for this model is that it can be used by wildlife management officials to implement conservation efforts focused on collecting and maintaining freshwater resources.
Catano, C., Romañach, S., Beerens, J., Pearlstine, L., Brandt, L., Hart, K., Mazzotti, F., Trexler, J., 2015. Using Scenario Planning to Evaluate the Impacts of Climate Change on Wildlife Populations and Communities in the Florida Everglades. Environmental Management 15: 807-823. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00267-014-0397-5#/page-1.