Preparing for Sea Change in Florida

  • Patty Glick
  • May 28, 2008

Florida is unique not only for her beauty and wealth of marine resources but her position of leadership and ability to forge a path for coastal communities worldwide to proactively face the looming and potentially devastating impacts of climate change. The Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, a group of environmental organizations working together to conserve, protect and restore Florida’s coastal and marine environment examines an ecosystem based approach to coastal and ocean management in light of climate change, along with the important linkages between the health of Florida’s economy and the health of its beaches and dunes, coral reefs, mangroves, sea grasses, wetlands and other natural resources.

Unfortunately, Florida’s coastal and marine systems already have experienced serious degradation as a result of a variety of factors, including pollution, poorly sited coastal development, altered freshwater flows, and harmful fishing practices. Numerous restoration and protection efforts have been undertaken to tackle these problems, but the future of Florida’s coastal and ocean resources also depends on addressing the very real threat of global warming.

  • Rising sea levels will increase erosion of beaches, cause saltwater intrusion into water supplies, inundate coastal marshes and other important habitats, and make coastal property more vulnerable to storm surges.
  • More-extreme weather events, including intense rainfall, floods, droughts, and tropical storms, will alter freshwater flows into estuaries and lagoons, exacerbate polluted runoff and water supply problems, and damage coastal habitats and property.
  • Higher ocean temperatures will cause extensive coral bleaching, enhance marine diseases, alter species’ ranges and population abundances, and harm fisheries.
  • Higher ocean acidity will inhibit the ability of corals and other marine organisms to build up calcium carbonate, the substance that forms their protective skeletons.

This report outlines the issues and concerns, but more importantly, identifies a series of recommended actions for local, state and federal agencies to cope with the significant challenges posed by rising sea levels, more-extreme storm events, higher ocean temperatures, and acidification of ocean waters. Some of the recommended actions will require Florida’s Governor, Legislature, and Congressional delegation to provide the directives, funding mechanisms, and leadership to move forward. However, many programs and policies are already in place and can be used to begin making adaptive changes to a warming world.

Read the executive summary here.

Preparing for Sea Change in Florida

A strategy to cope with the impacts of global warming on Florida's coastal and marine systems.


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