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Berry, L., Bloetscher, F., Hernández Hammer, N., Koch-Rose, M., Mitsova-Boneva, D., Restrepo, J., Root, T., Teegavarapu, R. (2011). Florida water management and adaptation in the face of climate change. State University System of Florida, Florida Climate Change Task Force.
Abstract: The state of Florida will be faced in the coming years with significant challenges and
opportunities for managing water in a highly dynamic and changing climate. The impacts of
climate change on water resources management will have consequences for the economic
sustainability and growth of the state. A strong awareness of climate change impact issues and
potential adaptation strategies that could be implemented by the state will increase its resilience
over the long-term to uncertain climatic conditions and sea level rise. To that end, a series of
white papers have been prepared by State University System (SUS) of Florida Universities to
coalesce our understanding of realized and predicted climate change impacts with a focus on
various topics. The report presented herein addresses water resources and adaptation issues
across the state. The primary objectives of this report are: (1) to identify Florida’s water
resources and water-related infrastructure that are vulnerable to climate change; (2) show
demographics in the state that are vulnerable to climate change impacts with a focus on water
resources and sea level rise; and (3) highlight some of the alternative technologies currently
being used to solve water resource supply issues in the state that are likely to expand and be
challenged under various scenarios of climate change.
Florida is highly vulnerable to climate change as a result of its expansive shoreline, low
elevation and highly permeable aquifers, and the location of high population centers and
economic investments close to the coastline. Further, the state receives a high frequency of
tropical storm landings that are accompanied by tidal surges that compound the risks of sea level
rise. Because the state is highly vulnerable compared to other regions globally, Florida’s
academic, governmental and non-governmental institutions are developing adaptation strategies
and conducting research on climate change. In this white paper, we highlight climate change
issues relevant to water management, but also recognize the financial challenges to implement
adaptation measures to address climate change solutions. Implementing adaptation measures
will require an unprecedented level of resource leveraging and coordination among academic,
governmental, non-governmental, and private sector entities.
Cameron Devitt, S. E., Seavey, J. R., Claytor, S., Hoctor, T., Main, M., Mbuya, O., et al. (2012). Florida biodiversity under a changing climate: a white paper on climate change impacts and needs for Florida. State University System of Florida, Florida Climate Change Task Force.
Abstract: Florida has abundant and unique biological resources that are expected to be negatively
affected by global climate change. Florida is at particularly high risk for climate change impacts
because of its low topography, extensive coastline, and frequency of large storm events. Climate
change is already making large sweeping changes to Florida's landscape, especially along the
coasts. The drivers of this change are both physical and biological in nature. Changes in air and
water temperature, freshwater availability, salt water intrusion, ocean acidification, natural
disturbance regime shifts (e.g., fire, storms, flood), and loss of land area have already been
observed in Florida. Florida's average air temperature has increased at a rate of 0.2 – 0.40C per
century over the past 160 years and is expected to increase around another 50C by 2100. Rainfall
in Florida has generally increased by 10% over the last 120 years, and more frequent heavy
precipitation events are expected in the future. Both globally and in Florida, ocean pH has been
lowered 0.1 unit since the pre-industrial period and another 0.3�0.5 pH unit drop is predicted by
2100. Many of Florida's disturbances regimes such as algae blooms, wildfires, hypoxia, storms,
droughts and floods, diseases, pest outbreaks are already showing signs of change. Finally,
Florida's sea level is currently rising at 1.8-2.4 mm per year and may rise by another meter by
Florida's biodiversity is already responding to climate change through changes in
physiology, distribution, phenology, and extinction risk. Physiological stress is being observed
among marine species in reduced rates of calcification, photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, and
reproduction brought on by increased acidity. Northward movement is becoming more common
as a result of temperature shifts. Unfortunately, for Florida, species movement brings increased
risk for invasions by non-native species, like the Cuban treefrog. Sea turtle nesting and tree
flowering dates are starting to shift earlier in time to keep pace with increasing temperatures in
Florida. Climate change also brings elevated extinction risks for Florida's numerous endemic
species and species of conservation concern.
Maintaining species and ecosystem resiliency is critical to conserving Florida's
biodiversity, and we recommend an active adaptive management framework to achieve this goal.
The application of adaptive management demands that science take a leading role in
management. As we outline here, the major scientific research needs are to improve predictive
ecological models and their application; increase focus on general climate change impacts
patterns and trends; improve the understanding of disturbance regimes and the interactions of
climate drivers; and enhance monitoring programs that link to clear management actions.
Resource management can take a leading role, especially in embracing an experimental and
flexible approach. Support is also needed for managers to improve data management and
infrastructure; embrace and work openly with uncertainity, engage in more climate change
related public outreach; and reach out to other management agencies across political and
bureaucratic boundaries. Management and science together need to promote the conservation of
natural resources; reduce other anthropogenic threats to biodiversity; consider the use of assisted
migration and other adaptation strategies; create migration corridors; and promote strategy
development that is both creative and experimental.
Fortunately, there are numerous agencies, institutions, and scientists in Florida who can
facilitate both improved scientific research and management of climate change impacts on
biodiversity. Federal programs such as the White House's Interagency Climate Change
Adaptation Task Force and the Department of Interior's Landscape Conservation Cooperatives
are being implemented to enable holistic adaptive management across state borders. Within
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Florida, The Fish and Wildlife Commission, Water Management Districts, and Florida Oceans
and Coastal Council should continue to work across county and habitat borders with Florida
research scientists and non-profit organizations to promote active adaptive management
approaches to protecting biodiversity.
Numerous direct economic benefits are associated with conserving Florida�s natural
resources, such as tourism, recreation, and fisheries. In addition, Florida�s biodiversity and
natural systems provide significant ecosystem services that benefit all the citizens of Florida. To
develop effective active adaptive management in Florida, several administrative challenges need
to be addressed such as current interpretation of legislation, lack of funds, stakeholder conflict,
self-serving behavior, and the pace of change. "The challenge to researchers is to shift their focus
from discovery to the science of implementation, while managers and policy-makers must depart
from their socio-political norms and institutional frameworks to embrace new thinking and
effectively utilize the wealth of powerful new scientific tools for learning by doing" (Keith and
others 2011). Structured and transparent decision making can unveil options for science and
management to effectively address Florida's biodiversity conservation in the face of climate
change. The preservation of Florida's rich biodiversity is critical to maintaining the unique and
unparalleled natural beauty of the state and the ecosystem services provided by these natural
systems to the citizens of Florida.
Galindo-Gonzalez, S., L. Berry, C. Cox, A. Edwards, R. Ellingson, A. Feldman, T.A. Irani, J.W. Jones, J. Lambert, C. Lockhart, M. Mehallis, J.G. Ryan. (2011). Florida climate change education and training: State University System cooperative plan. State University System of Florida, Florida Climate Change Task Force.
Abstract: Global climate changes are complex and challenging to communicate to society. As a consequence, society is not prepared to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change, remaining incapable of pushing for effective, efficient, and equitable policies and actions on the matter. This challenge is evident in the Southeastern United States, where broad sectors of the public remain unconvinced that climate change is a serious problem and scientists and educators in general lack sufficient capability to translate sciences to lay audiences, making it harder for people to understand climate change and how and when they should be concerned and take action. Therefore, it is important to identify existing educational opportunities that and others that are still needed to broadly educate and inform relevant audiences.
The overall goal of this paper is to provide information on university climate change programs (research and education), university climate change institutes and centers, and initiatives statewide in Florida. The specific objectives are:1) describe the current status of climate change education within Florida, b) assess the extent at which climate change educational needs are being addressed, and c) identify action items required to enhance climate literacy of the State’s population.
Through a systematic statewide effort, 461 courses with varying degrees of climate change content were identified within 12 surveyed institutions of higher education. Almost 40% of these courses are taught in disciplines within the Earth and physical sciences, and both the life and social sciences have around 100 courses each. The rest of the courses were part of the curricula of interdisciplinary programs (43), and humanities (8). The courses were further classified based on the amount of climate change content that they included.
A set of educational needs were identified. The most important needs are: a) promote a stronger integration of climate change education with other sciences and disciplines; b) enhance students’ access to current and future courses; c) develop the skills of scientists for translating scientific concepts to lay audiences; and d) strengthen the preparation of teaching and extension faculty and K-12 science teachers to incorporate climate change concepts in their courses. Two approaches are proposed by the authors based on these findings and on recent publications, such as the USGCRP Climate Literacy framework. The first one focuses on the development and delivery of training curricula to enhance the knowledge and skills of university faculty (both teaching and extension) and K-12 science teachers in two main areas: 1) the integration of climate change education into their courses/programs, and 2) the translation of scientific concepts to multiple audiences. The second approach is the establishment of a state-wide, inter-institutional, and multidisciplinary concentration or minor/certificate on climate change. This program would enhance the access of students to a variety of courses on climate change, improve the capacity of future scientists for translating sciences, and promote the integration of climate change education into a range of disciplines.
Misra, V., E. Carlson, R. K. Craig, D. Enfield, B. Kirtman, W. Landing, S.-K. Lee, D. Letson, F. Marks, J. Obeysekera, M. Powell, S.-l. Shin. (2011). Climate scenarios: a Florida-centric view. State University System of Florida, Florida Climate Change Task Force.
Abstract: This document comprises the viewpoints of experts in Florida from diverse fields on
climate scenarios of the future with a focus on potential impacts on the state of Florida. A
general perception of climate change is associated with uncertainty that entails different
viewpoints and an implied limited understanding of the impacts of climate change. This
notion is amplified further when impacts of climate change are assessed locally over a
region like Florida. It is the collective opinion of this group that we cannot wish away this
uncertainty. The nature of the problem warrants a probabilistic projection although a
deterministic answer to the impact of climate change is most desirable. In fact the
uncertainty in our understanding and predictions of climate variations is a natural outcome
of the increasingly complex observing and modeling methods we use to examine
interactions between the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and cryosphere.
It is shown that Florida represents a good example of a complex regional climate
system, where relatively slow natural climate variations conflate or deflate the multiple
sources of anthropogenic climate influences. Climate change in this document refers to all
sources of anthropogenic influences, including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, aerosols,
and land cover and land use change. In fact assessing climate change over Florida is so
complex that climate change occurring remotely may have a larger impact than the direct
influence of climate change on Florida. However the basic fact irrespective of the source of
these variations and change is that Florida, with its vast and growing coastal communities
and changing and growing demography will make itself more vulnerable to weather and
climate events. With anticipation of further rapid increase in GHG emissions, it is prudent
to act now in applying the necessary regional climate information that we have to educate
the public and implement adaptation and mitigation plans. Some of the most apparent
impacts of climate change and variability for Florida are as follows:
(i) Salt water intrusion from sea level rise is already becoming an issue for the
freshwater demands of highly populated areas along the southeast coast, from the
Florida Keys to Palm Beach. This issue may further worsen and become more
widespread over time with climate change.
(ii) The displacement of communities, destruction of infrastructure and terrestrial
ecology, and increased prospects of damage from storm surge would be additional
consequence of sea level rise.
(iii) The likelihood of the change in the statistics of Atlantic tropical cyclone intensity
has a huge implication for the sustenance of coastal and inland communities in
terms of damage to infrastructure and property, human mortality, and the
modulation of the accumulated fresh water source in the summer, especially in
(iv) Remote impacts of any perceived climate change in the characteristics of El Niño
and Southern Oscillation (ENSO; although none have been conclusively found so
far) will have an implication on the seasonal climate variability over Florida,
especially in winter and spring seasons.
(v) Likewise remote impact of climate change over North Africa can have implications
on dust transport across the Atlantic Ocean, which can change the air quality and
health of Florida�s neighboring oceans.
(vi) The uncertainty in the anticipated changes in Florida red tide (a harmful algal
bloom) due to changes in ocean temperatures, long term variations of local scale
terrestrial runoff can make the fishing industry and the human population
(vii) Florida�s coastal reefs, which serve as a habitat for a variety of biota, are
threatened by ocean acidification from increased levels of dissolved carbon
(viii) There is anticipation of inevitable future increases in the wealth of Florida coastal
communities, which would lead to further infrastructure development that will
make the coastal regions far more susceptible to even moderate (and
unanticipated) changes in climate.
It is recommended that, with existing climate information, effective climate scenarios
could be developed in the near term that would be useful to plan and test sustainable
strategies for adaptation and mitigation of climate-related vulnerabilities. Ongoing
scientific research is bound to further improve our ability to understand and predict our
climate system to meet the strident demands for accurate climate projection.
In addition the growing and aging population of Florida would make this State more
vulnerable to climate variations and change. The demand for energy and water will
proportionately grow, while changes in land cover, air quality, coastal waters from
urbanization, industrialization and agriculture will be inevitable.
Although it is pointed out in this document that sea level rise is one of the main issues
confronting Florida in terms of the immediate impact of climate change, we have not
included a description of it in this document. This is because there are several reports that
have recently been released on sea level rise. They are listed below for our interested
(i) Sea Level Changes in the Southeastern United States: Past, Present and Future
(Mitchum 2011; available from
(ii) Past and projected trends in climate and sea level for South Florida (Obeysekera et
al. 2011; available from
(iii) IPCC workshop on sea level rise and ice sheet instabilities (Stocker et al. 2010;
available from http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/supportingmaterial/SLWWorkshopReportkuala_lumpur.pdf)
(iv) Thirsty for answers: Preparing for the water-related impacts of climate change in
American cities (Dorfman et al. 2010; available from