CAREER:Understanding Coastal Resilience: Implications of an Expanding White Zone in the Florida Everglades Grant

CAREER:Understanding Coastal Resilience: Implications of an Expanding White Zone in the Florida Everglades .


  • Many coastal wetlands are at risk due to sea level rise and increasing salinity levels. In the Florida Everglades, changes in freshwater supply and sea level rise are influencing the health of freshwater ecosystems. Since freshwater species are not well adapted to high salinity levels, a zone of low productivity often occurs at the intersection of salt- and fresh-water bodies. Even though these low productivity zones commonly occur in coastal areas, we do not understand how the size and location of these zones on the larger landscape will influence the capacity for coastal regions to maintain the productivity rates that allow them to keep up with sea level rise. To understand how Everglades wetlands are changing along the coast, it is necessary to determine how salt stress leads to a rapid loss of accumulated carbon (C) and the amount of time it takes for salt tolerant species to move into the affected zone, increasing productivity. This project incorporates measurements at the species level to determine how changes in salinity affect rates of photosynthesis, and how species-specific responses to increased salinity impact vegetation cover throughout entire marsh ecosystems. In addition to the traditional avenues for sharing research findings, this project includes a collaboration to develop an interactive website that features educational elements as well as resources designed to help coastal residents, educators, and elected officials become more familiar with and involved in coastal research. This project will also support a diversity and bias awareness workshop for biologists and produce a museum exhibit. To understand how Everglades wetlands are changing, it is necessary to determine how complex stressors, driven by shifting hydrological regimes, either accelerate C storage or cause a rapid loss of accumulated C. This project involves characterizing species-level physiological responses to changing salinity and hydrologic conditions, remote sensing to detect the size and location of the low productivity zone, and eddy covariance to measure the productivity rates of entire ecosystems. This research aims to establish links between wetland ecosystem structure and C dynamics, and the degree to which hydrology influences wetland feedbacks to already increasing atmospheric CO2. The data produced from this project will improve wetland data- model comparisons by measuring how CO2 and CH4 emissions fluctuate in response to the seasonal effects of inundation and changes in salinity. This project will also produce a documentary film to raise awareness of the important changes happening to coastal ecosystems and empower residents, students, and politicians to join in our effort to develop resilient ecosystems.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

date/time interval

  • March 18, 2021 - September 28, 2022

administered by

sponsor award ID

  • 2047687