Current Research Projects

Model Lands Project

The Model Lands project is in the Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area immediately north of the C111 canal and to the west of US 1. The project is focused on wetland adaptation to stressors such as climate change and sea level rise. 72 1m by 1m plots will be used to test a variety of responses including soil elevation change via sediment elevation rods (SETs), nutrient levels in both water and soil, biogeochemical processes, periphyton response, and above- and below-ground biomass. The experimental design will test the ability of a coastal wetland to outpace sea level rise through positive soil elevation change and productivity. The overarching hypothesis is that the addition of sediment and phosphorus will confer the greatest wetland adaptive capacity in a marl coastal marsh. The experiment will also aid in elucidating environmental factors that can hinder positive soil elevation change as well as determine the best methodologies for enhancing coastal wetland productivity..…Read more about this project


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)

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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


Current Sea Level Solutions Center Projects

Resilient 305 Collaborative

The Resilient 305 Collaborative is a joint academic-government research partnership among Florida International University (FIU), Miami-Dade College (MDC), University of Miami (UM), and government and non-government organization (NGO) leaders of the Greater Miami Beach Area. The Collaborative is piloting a research strategy, focused on an area of GM&B dubbed the “Little River to North Beach Resilience District.” This diverse area constitutes of communities with varying degrees of exposure to natural hazards, socioeconomic conditions, and technological capacities. The Collaborative began in 2016 as an outcome of the MetroLab Network and was created to work together in support of comprehensive resilience research and learning. Within the universities, the team includes faculty across disciplines of physical, environmental, and social sciences, including public and mental health, information technology, communications, disaster risk management, engineering, architecture, planning, and education..…Read more about this project


Shading Dade

The citizen science project, Shading Dade, attempts to answer the question of “How hot is it really in Miami?” Since 2018, FIU’s Sea Level Solutions Center in partnership with Catalyst Miami have partnered up to launch this event. Students, faculty and citizen scientists deploy tiny heat sensing iButtons around Miami-Dade county in areas where residents are likely to congregate (ex: bus stops, public parks and more). The sensors are deployed in both full and open canopy areas in order to compare the difference in temperatures. There are also sensors that only monitor humidity as well. Every neighborhood has different environmental characteristics that contribute to how residents experience temperature. This event helps us monitor extreme heat in the county, raising awareness about climate stressors that will affect our communities. To date, we have had 8 deployments of these sensors! …Read more about this project


Sea Level Solutions Day

This citizen science event attempts to answer the question of how sea level rise will affect South Florida. Since 2015, the FIU Sea Level Solutions Center in partnership with the FIU Department of Journalism and Media have recruited citizens and scientists to document the extent of flooding during King tide events – the highest high tides of the year. During the sampling, participants measure water depth of flooded areas and various water quality parameters, including salinity, nutrient content, and the presence of E. coli – a common harmful bacteria that affects human health. Photos are taken along the way to document the sampling process. The amount of floodwater in the streets has varied from year to year with a high of more than 2 feet in some neighborhoods. We just had our 8th Annual Sea Level Solutions Day this past October! …Read more about this project