Effects of sea-level rise and freshwater management on long-term water levels and water quality in the Florida Coastal Everglades

J Environ Manage. 2018 Apr 1;211:164-176. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.01.025. Epub 2018 Feb 4.

Abstract

Since the 1880s, hydrological modification of the Greater Florida Everglades has reduced water levels and flows in Everglades National Park (ENP). The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP) began in 2000 to restore pre-drainage flows and preserve the natural landscape of the Everglades. However, sea-level rise (SLR) was not considered in the development of CERP. We used long-term data (2001-2016) from the Florida Coastal Everglades-Long Term Ecological Research Program to quantify and model the spatial dynamics of water levels, salinity, and nutrients in response to changes in climate, freshwater management and SLR in the Shark River Slough (SRS), ENP. Results indicate that fresh-to-marine head difference (FMHD) was the single most important factor affecting marine-to-freshwater hydrologic connectivity and transport of salinity and phosphorous upstream from the Gulf of Mexico. Sea-level has increasingly exceeded ground surface elevation at the most downstream freshwater site in SRS, thereby reducing the FMHD. We showed a higher impact of SLR in the dry season when there was practically no freshwater inflow to raise FMHD. We also demonstrated effectiveness of inflow depends more on the monthly distribution than the total annual volume. Hence, the impact per unit volume of inflow is significantly higher in the dry season in preventing high salinity and marine-derived nutrient levels. We advocate that FMHD needs to be factored into water management decisions to reduce adverse and likely irreversible effects of SLR throughout the Everglades landscape.

Keywords: CERP; Nitrogen; Nutrients; Phosphorus; Salinity; Shark slough.

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem*
  • Florida
  • Fresh Water
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • Water
  • Water Quality*
  • Wetlands

Substances

  • Water