Initial Estimates of the Ecological and Economic Consequences of Sea Level Rise on the Florida Keys

The study, by the Nature Conservancy, is intended to catalyze interest in examining sea level rise impacts and developing adaptation strategies for the Florida Keys and similar islands in Florida and around the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Basin.  In 2007, the Conservancy acquired high-resolution Digital Elevation Models derived from airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) data for Big Pine Key. Future shoreline locations and distribution of major habitats of Big Pine Key in the year 2100 were estimated using sea level rise scenarios described in the scientific literature. Also modeled were property loss and value loss, according to a range of various IPCC projections. In every scenario the island becomes smaller, marine and intertidal habitat moves upslope at the expense of upland habitat, and property values are diminished. 

The report suggests mitigation and adaptation response strategies. "No regrets” strategies for managing Florida Keys natural areas for sea level rise are offered, including fire management, invasive exoctic species management, and wetland restoration recommendations.

The report concludes that "Unlike the acute impacts of a hurricane, which the Florida Keys have historically withstood or recovered from, the impacts wrought by sea level rise will be permanent... Natural areas, native species and human communities will have no choice but to adapt. Decisions made today will influence, sometimes profoundly, the ability of people and nature to adapt to sea level rise in the future."


Publication Date: February 3, 2011

Author or Affiliated User:

  • Chris Bergh

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Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Scenario planning

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