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Vegetation Index and Climate Change in Florida, USA

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April 3rd, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Vegetation Index

USA – April 2nd, 2013

This image shows the vegetation index of the state of Florida, USA (low index appears brown to yellow, while a high index appears green to dark green). Florida has abundant and unique biological resources that are expected to be negatively affected by global climate change. The state is at particularly high risk for climate change impacts because of its low topography, extensive coastline, and frequency of large storm events.

Climate change is already making large sweeping changes to Florida’s landscape, especially along the coasts. The drivers of this change are both physical and biological in nature. Changes in air and water temperature, freshwater availability, salt water intrusion, ocean acidification, natural disturbance regime shifts (e.g., fire, storms, flood), and loss of land area have already been observed in Florida. Florida’s average air temperature has increased at a rate of 0.2 – 0.40C per century over the past 160 years and is expected to increase around another 50C by 2100.

Rainfall in Florida has generally increased by 10% over the last 120 years, and more frequent heavy precipitation events are expected in the future. Both globally and in Florida, ocean pH has been lowered 0.1 unit since the pre-industrial period and another 0.3–0.5 pH unit drop is predicted by 2100. Many of Florida’s disturbances regimes such as algae blooms, wildfires, hypoxia, storms, droughts and floods, diseases, pest outbreaks are already showing signs of change. Finally, Florida’s sea level is currently rising at 1.8-2.4 mm per year and may rise by another meter by 2100.

Florida’s biodiversity is already responding to climate change through changes in physiology, distribution, phenology, and extinction risk. Physiological stress is being observed among marine species in reduced rates of calcification, photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, and reproduction brought on by increased acidity. Northward movement is becoming more common as a result of temperature shifts. Unfortunately, for Florida, species movement brings increased risk for invasions by non-native species, like the Cuban treefrog. Sea turtle nesting and tree flowering dates are starting to shift earlier in time to keep pace with increasing temperatures in Florida. Climate change also brings elevated extinction risks for Florida’s numerous endemic species and species of conservation concern (click here for more information).

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