At the bottom of the Everglades along the mouth of the Shark River, a towering mangrove forest stands in a place few people outside anglers and researchers ever see: at the edge of a vast shallow bay where the salty sea and freshwater marshes conspired to erect a cathedral of trees. In the current fight over restoration, this isolated region often gets overlooked. While Lake Okeechobee pollution to the north grabs headlines and gets the attention of Florida lawmakers, it’s actually here where damage may be most profound.
For the last 16 years, nearly 80 scientists and their students from 29 organizations — including all the state’s major universities, the National Park Service and the South Florida Water Management District — have embarked on one of the longest and largest studies ever conducted on South Florida’s coastal Everglades. They now fear the system may be at what lead investigator Evelyn Gaiser calls a “tipping point,” where change is happening faster than scientists expected and spinning into a self-perpetuating cycle of decline.
The first few nights of February 2017 have been chilly by South Florida standards. This episode of WLRN’s Topical Currents examines how these temperature dips affect South Florida plants and landscapes, featuring Dr. Jennifer Rehage of FIU’s Southeast Environmental Research Center. Listen to the full interview here >>
Researchers have discovered that the ice-covered lakes in Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valley uphold the thawed fragments of black carbon from ancient wildfires. The study was published in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters, and was co-authored by Drs. Yan Ding and Rudolf Jaffe of the Southeast Environmental Research Center at Florida International University.
The authors analyzed the long-term history of the lakes and found no record of local forest fires burning in neighboring areas. This provides more certainty that the woody signatures have come over from Africa, South America or Australia. Overall, there have been relatively limited direct measurements of dissolved black carbon in the cryosphere due to the problems of sample collection from these remote environments. These are the first known measurements of this kind from freshwater lakes in Antarctica, according to the American Geophysical Union.
The study reveals that dissolved black carbon can stay in freshwater and saline surface waters for thousands of years, while conserving the chemical signature of the original source materials. The prehistoric seawaters of the lake bottom waters have preserved the dissolved black carbon with a woody chemical signature. In contrast, the waters are supplemented in black carbon from fossil fuel combustion. The distinctions in the chemical composition of dissolved black carbon among the lakes are possibly due to biogeochemical processing that includes the sorption on metal oxides and photochemical degradation.
This study may provide information and conclusions on how the black carbon signatures have moved over time and how the dissolved black carbon is carried to the world’s oceans and lakes. See the original article here >>
In an effort to understand the diets of plant-loving fish, FIU Ph.D. student Jessica Sanchez and marine sciences professor Joel Trexler delved into the world of herbivory in freshwater ecosystems. They wanted to develop a research framework for other scientists to follow in studies on the evolution of these diets. Their efforts resulted in a scientific paper that was published in a recent issue of Ecosphere. It was the 800th scientific paper published by research faculty in FIU’s Southeast Environmental Research Center (SERC).
“Many of our publications have not only had important scientific impacts, but they have also shaped current management practices and policy,” said Todd Crowl, director of the Institute of Water and Environment, which houses SERC. More information >>
The USAID’s Global Waters series tells the story of water-related efforts from around the globe. The magazine features in-depth articles exploring solutions to local as well as global water challenges, opinion pieces by top development professionals, and first-hand accounts from stakeholders and beneficiaries. Check out the August 2016 issue here. Featured in this latest issue of Global Waters, Real Impact highlights examples of water sector projects around the world. Each case example provides from-the-field insights about successful approaches, challenges faced, and lessons learned. Read more here.
The coastal mangrove reaches of the Everglades are subject to major disturbances, including extreme cold events. Such a 100‐year extreme cold spell affected the area in January 2010. As part of the Special Feature: Extreme Cold Spells in the June 2016 issue of Ecosphere, Dr. Jennifer Rehage et al. found that cold spells can knock back nonnative fish populations in these ecotonal habitats (Volume 7, Issue 6, Article 01268; e01268.10.1002/ecs2.1268). Resilience to the events varies in space, likely a result of proximity to refuge habitats. See here for a link to the article/journal in the Ecological Society of America (ESA) webpage.
When an explosion at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sent millions of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, it ignited one of the largest environmental disasters in modern history. Six years later, scientists are still working to fully determine, understand and mitigate the damage that was done.
This reality is not unique. During the past three decades, incidents involving pesticides, industrial chemicals, oil, pharmaceuticals, nutrients and metals have greatly affected environmental conditions and attracted worldwide attention. These events demonstrate a regional, national and international need to enhance research on the effects of toxic substances in the environment.
To help improve understanding of environmental contamination in water resources and design remediation strategies, FIU has launched the Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment (CAChE) with a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) program. More information >>
Essential for life, water is the most important resource on the planet, and also one of the most imperiled.
FIU has launched the Institute of Water and Environment to address global water issues and broader challenges impacting the environment. It brings together some of the university’s top centers and programs to expand research and community engagement opportunities in the face of growing environmental threats. From the wetlands of the Everglades to the coral reefs in the oceans, institute researchers aim to preserve freshwater and marine resources for future generations.
“The formation of the institute will allow us to conduct innovative, interdisciplinary research in a comprehensive and timely manner and to translate our results and technologies into actionable knowledge for the public and policymakers that depend on them,” said aquatic ecologist Todd Crowl, who has been named director of the institute. “We believe this institute will become a world leader in comprehensive, solutions-oriented water science.” Read more >>