Assessing effects of anthropogenic and climate-induced change on health of coastal ecosystems.
November 2020 - December 2022
- U.S. Geological Survey
Florida’s coastline is constantly reworked by long and short-term climatic cycles. Shifts in the frequency and intensity of those cycles due to global change, in conjunction with anthropogenic alterations, are affecting the resilience of coastal habitats and the species that rely on them. This research will integrate existing approaches with novel techniques to examine the coupling of oceanographic and onshore processes and their effects on sea turtle nest incubation and dune stabilization. Sea turtles nest in a variety of beach environments, and the success of an individual nest is influenced by its location on the beach and the resulting incubation micro-environment. The effects of tide-driven gas exchange on sea turtle nest incubation, beach microbial communities, and dune stabilization have received little attention. Our recent research indicates that incursion and retreat of the saltwater wedge causes substantial movement of gases through the beach during the tidal cycle, and that alterations like beach nourishment have the potential to suppress this natural pumping effect. We will evaluate how nest incubation dynamics and productivity respond to altered gaseous environments. Additionally, we will examine the role of beach nourishment in shifting offshore/onshore organic matter budgets, and the implications for greenhouse gas emissions. The results of this work will identify how and where habitat suitability issues might arise, and inform sound conservation planning measures and better nourishment practices, including mitigation and alternative actions.