The knock-on effects of sea level change

So sea level change will profoundly change the geography of our coastlines, but what are the knock on effects for inland areas. Population migration and increased competition for agricultural and water resources will lead to inland areas being put under profound stress.  A group of scientists in U.S.A are currently researching these impacts on the Lake Wales Ridge area of Florida.  The consequences look pretty frightening.

Climate change could affect the Lake Wales Ridge and other natural areas in Florida’s interior by causing increased habitat loss from the inland migration of people driven from coastal areas by sea-level rise.

In addition, there are some fears that such a population influx could exert pressure on local or state officials to open to development public conservation lands that have already been purchased to protect these species.

Another effect is that concerns about climate change could lead to restrictions on the use of prescribed fire, which scientific research has shown is necessary to manage existing preservation areas.

Without fire, the land would become overgrown, degrading habitat and also creating conditions for an accidental catastrophic wildfire.

But in America, like in so many other parts of the world, the challenge is to get people to take action now.  We cannot wait for another twenty years before we do something about this.  There is an immediacy to this situation that demands attention.  What is holding us back?

Hoctor said coastal sea-level rise could affect the effectiveness of some of the existing wildlife corridors through the Kissimmee River and St. Johns River basins and may force consideration of less optimal corridors, such as the Peace River, which is narrower and more fragmented by urban development than the Kissimmee and St. Johns.

Tom Champeau, a fisheries biologist from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the Everglades could be severely affected, too.

That raises public policy as well as environmental questions, he said, referring to the billions of dollars spent to restore an important freshwater ecosystem that could eventually become a saltwater estuary.

Champeau said scientists at his agency, which held a conference last year on the effect of climate change on wildlife, are already seeing effects.

Those include brown pelicans and wood storks nesting farther north and sightings of a species of fish called the common snook as far north as Perdido Bay along the Florida-Alabama border, he said.

Champeau, Hoctor and others said one of the obstacles to dealing with the effects of climate change is the fact that there’s still some uncertainty about the rate and the seriousness of the effects.

“There’s public apathy and skepticism,” he said.

One of the keys to decision-making is to compile data in Florida, said Dave Sumner of the U.S. Geologic Survey.

“Monitoring is critical because the climate models don’t tell the whole story,” he said, explaining they are too generalized to tell scientists exactly what could occur in Florida.

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