Current Research Projects

Coral Gables Tidal and Mangrove Sediment Elevation Study

Coastal wetlands provide essential direct livelihood services to millions of people, as well as critical regulating services such as maintenance of water quality, protection from storms and erosion, and carbon sequestration. Measuring the vertical movement of the coastal wetland surface and its constituent processes, and relative local sea-level rise (SLR) is necessary to determine whether a wetland can keep pace with SLR.

Tidal data can assist in understanding localized flooding associated with king tide flooding and sea-level rise. These data are an important resource for hurricane preparations and for recreational use about boat clearance through rivers and canals.

Four monitoring stations are being established: 2 tidal stations at Blue Road and Isla Dorada Boulevard bridges and 2 tidal and soil elevation monitoring sites in Matheson Hammock and a mangrove site near Coral Gables Marina....Read more about this project

Southeastern Everglades Ecosystem Monitoring Program

C111 white zone tree islands

In the southeastern Everglades, widespread changes including hypersalinity, marine transgression, reduced macrophyte productivity, and expansion of degraded habitat known as the “white zone” have occurred over the last 50 years. Modified freshwater delivery due to water management and background sea-level rise are attributed (Ross et al. 2000). In Taylor Slough, water management has altered the timing and duration of flooding resulting in the conversion of areas of open water slough to short hydroperiod marsh. Our goal is to understand how changes in quantity, timing and quality of water deliveries will affect Taylor Slough, downstream wetlands and the Florida Bay estuary....Read more about this project

Hydrology, Phosphorus Dynamics and Plant-soil Interactions in Everglades Tree Islands

plant soil interactions

In the Everglades, tree islands are considered characteristic of the ecological “health” of the landscape. Phosphorus (P) levels in upland tree island soils are greater than 100 times higher than P in adjacent marsh soils. Of primary concern is conservation of tree island habitat and maintaining tree island soil P to prevent P enrichment of local marsh communities. In this project, we are relating tree island community structure, hydrology and hydrogeochemical characteristics on four tree islands that vary along hydrologic and disturbance gradients to help further define characteristics of “healthy” tree islands and to refine tree island monitoring and performance measures....Read more about this project

Soil, Water, and Coarse Woody Debris CO2 Fluxes and Aqueous CO2 in a Tidal Mangrove Forest in the Florida Everglades

soil respiration

Mangrove forests cover 1% of the continental surface but represent large C stocks (eg. Micronesian forest 400-1400 Mg C ha-1; Kauffman et al. 2011) due to large belowground C stocks. Respiration flux from belowground, as CO2 to the atmosphere or as dissolved aqueous CO2, is a key component of coastal C cycling. Variation in soil respiration fluxes can be a function of numerous physical and biological factors including temperature, root production, benthic microalgae, invertebrates, duration and frequency of inundation, salinity, alkalinity and nutrient availability. Our goal is to quantify soil CO2 flux rates and patterns of aqueous pCO2 as a function of inter- and intra-site variability to elucidate key factors controlling soil respiration fluxes and losses of mangrove forest C....Read more about this project

Delta-X – Enabling Deltas to Thrive in a Century of Rising Seas (PI: Edward Castaneda)

A view of a body of water with a mountain in the background  Description automatically generated

River deltas are depositional environments in the coastal landscape that provide critical ecological and socio-economic services, protecting and supporting the livelihood of a disproportionate percentage of the world’s population. Rivers drain 87% of global landmass and due to their location at the confluence of rivers and the ocean, deltas are uniquely situated to be productive and biogeochemically important ecosystems in the coastal zone. However, many of the world’s active deltaic floodplains are threatened and unsustainable because reduced sediment availability relative to subsidence and sea level rise, results in wetlands drowning under rising seas. Delta-X studies the vulnerability of coastal deltaic wetlands to sea level rise and reduced sediment input in the Mississippi River Delta (MRD) in coastal Louisiana....Read more about this project

Hurricane Irma Effects on Florida Everglades Mangroves: Assessment of Resilience and Trajectories of Recovery – (PI: Edward Castaneda)

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Disturbances are large-scale episodic events that create abrupt changes in community structure, regulate ecological processes in ecosystems, and generate biological legacies that interact with environmental conditions thus defining trajectories of ecosystem recovery. In neotropical northern latitudes such as south Florida, hurricanes are recurring high-energy disturbances in coastal regions that significantly change community structure and function of mangrove wetlands. Hurricane force winds change forest structure through defoliation, tree snapping, and uprooting, which in turn influence tree mortality, species composition, successional patterns, nutrient cycling, and potential loss in soil elevation....Read more about this project

Allocation of Biomass and Net Primary Productivity of Mangrove Forests in the Florida Coastal Everglades – (PI: Edward Castaneda)

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Primary productivity represents the major input of carbon and biological energy into world’s ecosystems and can be considered as an integrative measure of ecosystem functioning. Mangrove forests dominate tropical and subtropical coastlines and are among the most productive marine ecosystems in the world, ranking second in terms of net primary productivity (NPP) only to coral reefs. The productivity of mangroves represents the outcome and interactions of several factors that operate at distinct global, regional, and local scales. Climate and the relative role of regional geophysical processes (river input, tides, and waves) within a coastal landform are the dominant forcing functions that control the basic patterns of mangrove forest structure and function....Read more about this project