AOML's Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division

Coastal Ecosystems Services in South Florida (COCA)

A primary goal of NOAA's Next Generation Strategic Plan (NGSP) is to understand the vulnerabilities of coastal ecosystems to a changing climate, how climate impacts will influence the resilience and sustainability of coastal communities, and to develop management tools and strategies that will best mitigate those impacts. More specifically, the CSI-COCA program aims to support the development of decision-making networks and innovative transferable tools for characterizing risks posed by a changing climate, and the promotion and dissemination of this knowledge and these tools within NOAA, across the federal government, nationally, and beyond. However, there is a lack of decision-support tools, methods, and capacity necessary to advance, communicate, and apply our knowledge of climate impacts upon complex human-natural systems in a manner that will ensure the sustainable delivery of coastal ecosystem services.

Here we propose to fill this gap by developing decision support tools to explore the effect of urbanization on the sustainability of coastal ecosystem service production under future climate change scenarios. South Florida is poised for such an investigation, as past scientific syntheses in the region have resulted in: 1) the development of conceptual ecosystem models linking ecosystem structure and function to drivers, pressures, and ecosystem services; 2) indicators that assess the natural and human dimensions components of the ecosystem; and 3) quantitative models that examine changes in ecosystem state under different climate scenarios. Specifically, we will take a two-pronged approach to develop multiple lines of evidence for informing ecosystem-based management decisions. First, we will use expert opinion analysis to develop semi-quantitative cause & effect networks linking climate and human-development pressures (e.g. sea level rise, marine construction), local ecosystem states (e.g. coral reefs, seagrasses, mangroves), and their associated ecosystem services (e.g. commercial extraction, pollution treatment, protection from storms) under different climate forecasts. A parallel examination will estimate future changes in ecosystem areal cover, abundance, and quality of focal ecosystem components under the same climate scenarios. These changes will be linked to the production of ecosystem services. Both analyses will be applied in three distinct zones of south Florida: 1) the heavily urbanized southeast coast, 2) the moderately developed southwest coast, and 3) the relatively undeveloped coast of Everglades National Park in Florida Bay. Through the use of meta-regression valuation methods we will quantify the economic impact of ecosystem services under these various climate and urbanization scenarios for both methodologies.

In concert these models will create a decision support tool for exploring how urbanization and predicted climate may alter ecosystem structure and function, ecosystem service production, and thus their impact upon the resilience and sustainability of coastal communities. Throughout the project, we will be meeting with south Florida decision makers representing the National Park Service, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, coastal counties, and regional planning boards. These regular interactions will discuss impending management decisions to ensure we are developing decision support tools that answer real-world management questions in the proper manner, thereby maximizing the utility of our products to the management community. Ultimately this project will facilitate comparative analyses of potential management strategies that best mitigate climate change impacts throughout the south Florida coastal zone, and create a blueprint for transferring these transdisciplinary methods to other regions of the country.

Contact Information for OCED/EAM Coastal Ecosystems Services in South Florida (COCA) Researchers: