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Management Issues at RBNERR - Global and Regional Change Events Quick Topics


  • To determine appropriate level of response and serve as a regional clearinghouse of accurate and credible science-based information and a coordinator of appropriate response for partners and the general public related to global and meteorological change events, catastrophic environmental events (both natural and human-induced) and harmful algal blooms (HABs).

Global and regional change events, both natural and human induced, have the potential for significant impacts to the ecologic integrity of RBNERR. Analysis of climate data worldwide and trends in global temperatures indicate that accelerated changes in climate are occurring. The most significant impact on RBNERR associated with climate change will be sea level rise.

As sea level rise continues, RBNERR can anticipate significant and potentially catastrophic changes to the natural habitats and wildlife within the region. Priority concerns include protected species that depend upon beach habitats for nesting (e.g. sea turtles) and resting, foraging and nesting (e.g. shorebirds). Also of concern is the anticipated loss of emergent wetlands as the migration of marine wetlands continues to track rising sea levels, until reaching a static urban boundary. The long-term impacts of sea level rise will likely be the single most significant threat to the ecological integrity of RBNERR due to the potential for catastrophic and irreversible change.

 Sandy beach

Barrier islands are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise.

In addition to long-term sea level rise, short-term catastrophic events such as periodic hurricanes, cold events and HABs, including red tide events, could impact natural resources within RBNERR. Barrier islands such as Keewaydin, Little Marco and Cannon Islands provide evidence of significant changes in geomorphology from 1928 to today. These changes are primarily a result of storm events and the cumulative effects of longshore currents.

Not only do catastrophic events impact coastal systems, but red tides and other harmful algal blooms can have a significant effect on wildlife. In 1996, a severe red tide event resulted in the mass mortality of over 150 West Indian manatees, an endangered species. The severe cold event observed in January 2010, when temperatures in Rookery Bay and the Ten Thousand Islands dropped to 47 degrees while similar conditions were observed in other Florida coastal areas, resulted in 197 confirmed manatee deaths across the State and mass mortality of cold susceptible fishes observed within RBNERR.

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

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Last updated: April 06, 2015

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