Sunday, March 29, 2009

Climate change in Florida

Heron rests in a mangrove forest in South Florida. (Photo courtesy USGS)


Maybe the fish are on to something. Don Hammond, who catches, tags and releases dolphin-fish (also known as mahi-mahi), says those Florida natives are being hooked in some unusual places.

Like Massachusetts and Canada.

People who study South Florida's environment say global warming is starting to have a significant impact on Florida's fish, fowl and flora.

Among those beginning to see the signs is Hammond, a private researcher in Charleston, S.C., who retired after 35 years with that state's Department of Natural Resources. He now runs a company called Cooperative Sciences Services. His fish, tagged in waters between South Florida and North Carolina, appear to be migrating farther north. Last year, one in five were hooked anew between North Carolina and Massachusetts, and one swam its way to the waters off of Nova Scotia.

''I have to wonder that as northern waters are warming and tropical waters are getting hotter, will the [fish] populations shift north?'' he said. …


Of course, there is scientific data and there are conditions that can be readily observed, especially in environmentally sensitive places like the Keys. Here are some of the changes that have been observed:

• Sooty terns and brown noddies (dark-colored terns) are nesting earlier in the Dry Tortugas.

• Buttonwoods and pines are dying as saltwater rises and does not drain away after hurricane storm surges.

• Salt-loving mangroves and saltwater habitats are advancing inland.

• Scientists had to lure beach-nesting roseate terns to a new beach three years ago after Pelican Shoals in the Keys was washed over and left under water by Hurricane Wilma.

• Half the corals in the Keys have been killed by disease, hurricanes and bleaching in hot water; those remaining are vulnerable to ocean acidification.

• Nine species of dragonflies have moved into Florida from Cuba and the Bahamas, following similar migrations by butterflies, birds and mammals. …

Ample evidence Florida's feeling effects of climate change

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