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FIU researchers have been studying whether or not enhanced freshwater delivery or strategic withdrawal in the Everglades coastal wetlands can offset the effects of sea level rise (SLR) and saltwater encroachment (SWE).

Drs. John Meeder, Michael Ross, and Randall Parkinson explain that “future adaptive management of Biscayne Bay coastal wetlands is totally dependent upon the availability of freshwater and the rate of sea level rise (SLR).” Coastal wetlands have been significantly impacted by SLR and SWE. Water management decisions and wetland restoration plans that change water storage and flow patterns in the area must consider several important limitations (outlined in the study).

The researchers have concluded that “under the current rate of sea level rise and concomitant with salt water encroachment, the open waters of Biscayne Bay will migrate inland and over existing coastal marsh habitat, ultimately extending to the L31E coastal levee within 50 to 100 yr.” While increasing freshwater delivery may slow this trend it should not be considered a viable, long-term solution to SWE triggered by rising seas. In an effort to limit engineering challenges and construction costs, “strategic withdrawal of water control structures to facilitate landward migration of wetlands must be viewed as the most viable solution to mitigating the effects of SLR and SWE.”

The results of this study are presented in the article “Enhancing coastal wetland resilience to SLR: just add water?” published in the latest issue of the Solutions Journal.

Read the full article to learn more.