201704species-on-the-move.jpgApril 5, 2017 - Changes in the distribution of land, marine and freshwater species as a result of climate change are affecting human wellbeing around the world, posing new health risks, economics threats and conflicts over resources. The study, by an international team, including Brett Scheffers (UF), is published in the journal Science. In response to climate change, land-based species are moving towards the poles by 17 kilometres per decade, and marine species by 72 kilometres per decade, on average.

The Science article was the result of the international Species on the Move conference co-organized by Scheffers  and held in Hobart, Tasmania, in February 2016. The conference brought together approximately 350 international scientists to discuss the global redistribution of species due to climate change.

Phys.org News Article

Guardian News Article

Science Journal Article

201704fiu-leaflitter.pngMarch 30, 2017 (Source: FIU) - The carbon dioxide coming from some of Earth’s tiniest residents may not be increasing as quickly as some believed in the face of global climate change. Streams and rivers are home to insects, bacteria and fungi that consume plant litter, including fallen leaves, and break it into smaller pieces. This type of litter is good for streams and rivers because it helps remove toxins. As leaf litter is consumed, insects and microbes get oxygen, convert nutrients into energy and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This process is what scientists call leaf litter decay.

According to a recently released study, temperature is not the only factor in how quickly insects and micro-organisms convert their food into energy and, as a byproduct, release carbon dioxide into the air. This finding contradicts a long-held belief that this process would accelerate with rising temperatures. Understanding how plant matter breaks down in different environments can help scientists predict how ecosystems will respond to climate change.

“If you have a reliable source of energy for organisms in an ecosystem, like the energy provided by consuming leaf litter, the communities of animals and plants living there will be more persistent,” said John Kominoski, an FIU biologist and co-author of the study. “Since global temperatures are rising and leaf litter decay is not as sensitive to temperature as once believed, it gives us hope ecosystems won’t be as energy-limited as we had thought.”

FIU News Release

201704troxler.pngMarch 28, 2017 - The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has appointed a committee of experts, including Tiffany Troxler of FIU, to conduct a study on Developing a Research Agenda on Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration.

Reaching lower global temperature targets recently set by the international community to avoid climate risks may require removing greenhouse gas that's already accumulated.  However, many of the proposed carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies are not yet viable in terms of cost and scalability, and any potential risks are not fully understood.

This study will develop the detailed research and development agenda needed to assess the benefits, risks, and sustainable scale potential for CDR and sequestration approaches and increase their commercial viability. Approaches considered will include land management, accelerated weathering, bioenergy with capture, direct air capture, geologic sequestration, and blue carbon, among others.

The committee slate is provisional pending a public comment period and final approval by the National Academies.


201703uf-competition.jpgMarch 1, 2017 (Source: UF) - The Florida Climate Institute at the University of Florida hosted a 3-Minute Thesis/2-Minute Video Competition on February 28 in which graduate students presented their climate-related research. The event included students from several disciplines who all needed to use one slide to create a compelling story about the importance of their research for a lay audience.

The winners of the 3mt/2mv contest were:

1st  place-- Sinead Crotty, PhD student for Synergistic interaction between sea-level rise and predator depletion drives regional salt marsh loss
2nd place--Jose Rafael Guarin. PhD student for Validating the NWheat crop model with historical extreme events
3rd place--Elliott White Jr. for Quantifying the impacts of chronic, low-level salinity on bald cypress swamps along the northern Gulf of Mexico

Eduardo Montiero Gelcer for Climate smart agriculture: a tool to monitor crop development and weather to reduce risks in the southeast USA

Watch the presentations here.

Photo (left to right): Jim Jones, Ellen Martin, Jose Guarin, Elliott White Jr., Sinead Crotty, Eduardo Gelcer  

logo-nsu.pngMarch 1, 2017 - The Florida Climate Institute is pleased to welcome Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Fort Lauderdale, FL, as our 10th member university. The NSU FCI branch will be directed by Dr. Bernard Riegl of the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Thomas Wuerzer of the Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

201702fiu-everglades.jpgFebruary 22, 2017 (Source: FIU) - Researchers are taking a step back to answer the question whether long-term studies are helping save plants, animals and the places they call home. The global answer is yes. FIU researchers are gathering data in the Florida Everglades that provide critical information needed for restoration and conservation. They’ve been doing this for more than a decade.

The Everglades is made up of different ecosystems, including swamps, hardwood hammocks, mangrove forests, pine rocklands and sawgrass marshes. Their interconnectivity makes them especially susceptible to changes in the environment.

FIU’s long-term approach to studying the Everglades allows scientists to understand how it works, and it allows them to predict how it will respond to changes in the future. For more than 16 years, scientists in FIU’s Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research (FCE LTER) Program have been studying how water, climate and people affect the Everglades. Their efforts have resulted in more than 500 peer-reviewed journal articles to date.

In a new paper, FIU researchers outline the value of international long-term research, how it has played into what is known about the Everglades and other wetlands, and how it can help solve current and future ecological problems. It is part of a four-paper special feature on international long term ecological research published in Ecosphere.

FIU News Release

newsletter/201703rsmas-hurricane.pngFebruary 15, 2017 (Source: UM/RSMAS) - Last year’s devastating category-5 hurricane—Matthew—may be one of many past examples of a tropical storm fueled by massive rings of warm water that exist in the upper reaches of the Caribbean Sea.

In a study conducted in the region two years prior to when Matthew’s trekked across the Caribbean Sea, the research team in the Upper Ocean Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) deployed 55 aircraft ocean instruments from the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration’s WP-3D aircraft. The purpose of the scientific mission was to measure ocean temperature, salinity, and currents to understand the structure of these warm-water eddies.

The science team obtained vital information about the physical characteristics within one large warm-water eddy, which likely originated from the North Brazil Current, and analyzed its potential influence on sub-surface ocean conditions during the passage of tropical cyclones.

When analyzing the data they found a barrier layer, an upper ocean feature created by the Amazon-Orinoco freshwater river outflow, that makes mixing in the upper ocean waters less efficient during wind events. This feature, and the fact that warm ocean eddies are known to assist in the intensification of hurricanes due to deep warm thermal layers, lead the researchers to theorize that the barrier layer within a warm ocean eddy may result in an even more favorable upper ocean environment for hurricane intensification.

“Our study is important because tropical cyclone intensity forecasts for several past hurricanes over the Caribbean Sea have under-predicted rapid intensification events over warm oceanic features,” said Johna Rudzin, a PhD student at the UM Rosenstiel School and lead author of the study.

UM/RSMAS News Release

201702fsu-uejio2.jpgFebruary 13, 2017 (Source: FSU) - A Florida State University researcher has drawn a link between the impact of climate change and untreated drinking water on the rate of gastrointestinal illness in children. Assistant Professor of Geography Chris Uejio has published a first-of-its-kind study, “Drinking-water treatment, climate change, and childhood gastrointestinal illness projections for northern Wisconsin (USA) communities drinking untreated groundwater,” in Hydrogeology Journal. The study explores the benefits of additional drinking water treatment compared to the risks created by climate change. “Most people may not realize this, but there are about 20 million people in the country who access drinking water that isn’t treated,” Uejio said. “These households are particularly vulnerable to rainfall events and contamination events where disease causing pathogens can get in their drinking water sources.”

FSU News Release

201702fsu-spencer.jpgFebruary 13, 2017 (Source: FSU) - A Florida State University researcher is delving into the complexities of exactly how permafrost thawing in the Earth’s most northern regions is cycling back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and further fueling climate change. Answer: It has a lot to do with tiny little bugs called microbes and little to do with sunlight.

Assistant Professor of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science Robert Spencer and a team of researchers traveled to Siberia from 2012 to 2015 to better understand how thawing permafrost affected the carbon cycle. They specifically investigated how the vast amounts of carbon stored in this permafrost transferred to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

In a paper published in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, Spencer along with Aron Stubbins from the University of Georgia explain that bacteria — or microbes — were the dominant consumer of this carbon. They are gobbling up the carbon from the thawing permafrost and spitting it back out as carbon dioxide. This is in contrast to sunlight, which could also break down the carbon and turn it into carbon dioxide. In their study, researchers found sunlight converted little if any permafrost thawed carbon to carbon dioxide, whereas microbes were shown to rapidly convert permafrost carbon to carbon dioxide.

FSU News Release

Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences Journal Article

201701fsu-carbon.jpgJanuary 23, 2017 (Source: FSU) - A Florida State University researcher is taking a deep dive into the carbon cycle and investigating how carbon moves from the ocean surface to greater depths and then remains there for hundreds of years. Those findings could be critical as scientists work to better understand climate change and how much carbon the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans can store. In a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), FSU Assistant Professor Michael Stukel explains how carbon is transported to deeper waters and why it is happening more rapidly in certain areas of the ocean. “Algae in the surface ocean contribute half of the Earth’s photosynthesis, but most of the carbon dioxide they take up gets released back to the atmosphere when they die,” Stukel said. “The only way for this carbon to stay out of the atmosphere for a long period of time is to get it into the deep ocean. If it’s in the deep ocean, it can stay put for hundreds to 1,000 years. As the climate gets warmer, will the ocean take up more carbon dioxide or less? That’s what we ultimately need to know. But first we have to figure out how this natural process of oceanic carbon storage works.”

FSU News Release

PNAS Journal Article

201701um-coral.pngJanuary 5, 2017 (Source: UM) - New climate model projections of the world’s coral reefs reveal which reefs will be hit first by annual coral bleaching, an event that poses the gravest threat to one of the Earth’s most important ecosystems. These high-resolution projections, based on global climate models, predict when and where annual coral bleaching will occur. The projections show that reefs in Taiwan and around the Turks and Caicos archipelago will be among the world’s first to experience annual bleaching. Other reefs, like those off the coast of Bahrain, in Chile and in French Polynesia, will be hit decades later, according to research recently published in the journal Scientific Reports. "Bleaching that takes place every year will invariably cause major changes in the ecological function of coral reef ecosystems," said study leader Ruben van Hooidonk of NOAA and the University of Miami. “Further, annual bleaching will greatly reduce the capacity of coral reefs to provide goods and services, such as fisheries and coastal protection, to human communities.”

UM News Release

Scientific Reports Journal Article

201612fsu-carbon.pngDecember 13, 2016 (Source: FSU) - Deep stores of carbon in northern peatlands may be safe from rising temperatures, according to a team of researchers from several U.S.-based institutions. And that is good news for now, the researchers said. Florida State University research scientist Rachel Wilson and University of Oregon graduate student Anya Hopple are the first authors on a new study published today in Nature Communications. The study details experiments suggesting that carbon stored in peat — a highly organic material found in marsh or damp regions — may not succumb to the Earth’s warming as easily as scientists thought. That means if these northern peatlands — found in the upper half of the northern hemisphere — remain flooded, a substantial amount of carbon will not be released into the atmosphere.

FSU News Release

Nature Communications Journal Article

Image caption: The SPRUCE research project is spread across seven acres in a natural spruce bog in northern Minnesota. Image credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory/U.S. Department of Energy

Ni-Bin ChangNovember 28, 2016 - Dr. Ni-Bin Chang, FCI executive board member and professor at the University of Central Florida, traveled to Brussels, Belgium, this month to receive the Blaise Pascal Medal in Earth and Environmental Sciences from the European Academy of Sciences. The award recognizes Dr. Chang's outstanding contributions to Environmental Sustainability, Green Engineering, and Systems Analysis. Only three scholars worldwide are selected for this award each year. Details may be found at http://www.eurasc.org/medals/pb_medals_16.asp 


201611-rr3.pngNovember 28, 2016 (Source: Nancy Schneider, Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact) - Engaged. Dedicated. Involved. These three words describe all who participated in the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact’s Resilient Redesign III on November 14-17 at the University of Miami, School of Architecture. Professionals and experts who came from the private sector, academia, and NGOs, as well as students from University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University, all volunteered their time to collaborate with public sector practitioners on addressing the challenges in three areas of Southeast Florida: Arch Creek (Miami-Dade County), Shorecrest (City of Miami) and Lower Matecumbe Key (Village of Islamorada).

Resilient Redesign began in 2014 when the Dutch Consulate approached the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact to hold a design charrette addressing the challenges in Southeast Florida related to flooding caused by sea level rise, high(er) tides, and extreme rain events. In the Netherlands, a country where 26% of land area is below sea level and 50% is three feet elevation or less, they have perfected “living with water” over the centuries. This four-day event began with participants donning their flip flops or rubber boots and wading through the brackish water on the tour of the affected areas, which coincided with a King Tide causing the streets to look more like canals. Due to high levels of water on many streets, city services were interrupted, residents were cut off from driving out of their driveways or from taking their usual routes. The teams reunited on the second day to begin discussions on what could be done through design to address flooding, overstressed infrastructure, improve residents’ quality of life, and improve economic opportunities. The teams worked late into the nights, developing ideas with input from experts in hydrology, land use law, infrastructure and natural systems.

In addition to living with water, all teams had a second theme: integrating nature and natural systems into the designs.  Unfortunately in the past, nature was considered something to be bulldozed over and forced to disappear with development in Florida.  Much of this is what is causing the problems today with developed tracts in what was once wetlands or riverbeds.To allow for greater resiliency over time, charrette leader Sonia Chao, director of the university’s Center for Urban and Community Design, advised designs for the short-term, mid-term and long-term. This helps ensure that short-term solutions don’t get in the way of the mid-term, and similarly for the mid-term considerations to not inhibit the long-term goals. By incorporating legal options into the design choices, short-term considerations become more feasible and creating the opportunity for long-term natural systems solutions.

201611fiu-everglades.jpgNovember 14, 2016 (Source: FIU) - When it comes to storing carbon, scientists have put a price tag on the value of mangroves in Everglades National Park and it’s in the billions. Based on a scientific cost estimate, the stored carbon is worth between $2 billion and $3.4 billion, the researchers found. It is a relatively small price when considering the cost to society if the carbon currently stored in these mangroves were ever released into the atmosphere, according to the researchers at FIU who co-authored the study.

"Although the Everglades National Park is a protected national treasure, the National Parks Service doesn’t have much control over freshwater flowing into the park," said Mahadev Bhat, co-author of the study and professor in FIU's Department of Earth and Environment. “If there isn’t enough freshwater flowing through the Everglades, we may eventually lose some of the mangroves. And once you let stored carbon out, that same carbon can lead to increased global warming and cost society a lot more.”

In addition to removing excess carbon dioxide from the air, mangroves provide a variety of other benefits, including flood control, storm protection and maintaining water quality. The billion-dollar price tag reflects the cost to preserve the park’s mangroves and their ability to hold organic carbon intact by restoring freshwater flow to the areas that need it the most.

FIU News Release

NSF News Release

Miami Herald News Article

Environmental Science & Policy Journal Article

201611uf-scheffers-science.jpgNovember 10, 2016 (Source: UF) - Global climate change has already impacted every aspect of life on Earth, from genes to entire ecosystems, according to a new University of Florida study. The paper appears today in the journal Science.

"We now have evidence that, with only a ~1 degree Celsius of warming globally, major impacts are already being felt in natural systems," said study lead author Brett Scheffers, an assistant professor in the department of wildlife, ecology and conservation in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "Genes are changing, species’ physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are shifting their ranges and we see clear signs of entire ecosystems under stress, all in response to changes in climate on land and in the ocean."

UF News Release

Science Journal Article

201611-uf-forestry.jpgNovember 2, 2016 (Source: Yale Environment 360) - A steady increase in sea levels is pushing saltwater into U.S. wetlands, killing trees from Florida to as far north as New Jersey. But with sea level projected to rise by as much as six feet this century, the destruction of coastal forests is expected to become a worsening problem worldwide.

A new Yale Environment 360 article features research conducted by University of Florida watershed ecologist David Kaplan and Ph.D. candidate Katie Glodzik in the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve, on the Big Bend coast of northwestern Florida.

Read Full Yale Environment 360 News Article

201611-um-canetalk.jpgNovember 2, 2016 (Source: UM/RSMAS) - Severe weather events like Superstorm Sandy are revealing the vulnerability of New York City and other coastal communities, particularly as sea levels continue to rise. In his lab at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School, Ben Kirtman is using one of the world’s largest supercomputers to more accurately predict the risk of severe flooding—in the upcoming weeks and decades. In this ’Cane Talk, Professor Kirtman describes what his research means for cities across the globe.
Ben Kirtman is a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. He leads UM’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies and the Center for Computational Science’s Climate and Environmental Hazards Program. Known internationally for using complex computer models to bring unprecedented detail to climate change measurement, Professor Kirtman also serves as an advisor to the United Nations and other multinational organizations.  

Click here to watch Ben Kirtman's recent CaneTalk 

201611-unesco-rome.jpgNovember 1, 2016 - Following the First UNESCO Field Workshop in New York and Miami, and after six months of international coordinated efforts, the organizing parties, The UNESCO CHAIR in Sustainable Urban Quality and Culture, notably in Africa; the Universita’ La Sapienza of Rome, Italy;  and the Consortium from Hydro-Generated Urbanism,  University of Florida US convened in Rome.

Download the event report and program.