Climate

What happens to the critters in a hurricane?

Hurricane Irma – CNN image

Hurricanes are no fun! But, if there is a small silver lining to hurricanes, it’s that scientists are provided rare opportunities to gain new insights into some plant and animal species. It’s a field called disturbance ecology, and I suspect a lot of it will be taking place in the next few months to years.

Some insights from past disturbance are incredibly fascinating. For instance, in 2001, just prior to Tropical Storm Gabrielle’s landfall, 14 tagged blacktip sharks swam to deeper waters in Terra Ceia Bay. And, as Hurricane Charley approached Charlotte Harbor in 2004, six of eight tagged sharks moved to open water; the other two disappeared from the sampling array. In both cases, the timing of shark movement seemed to correspond to decreasing air and water pressure.

Another notable effect of Hurricane Charley, occurred in the Peace River and upper Charlotte Harbor, which went hypoxic (very low to no oxygen) following the storm’s passage. The hypoxia resulted in changes in fish assemblages, from our typical fish variety to only the hardiest, including the sailfin catfish and the invasive brown hoplo. The hypoxic event was short lasting, and the fish assemblages returned to normal within a month. Interestingly, the Myakka River, which did not see the eye of the storm was not affected by hypoxia or changes in fish assemblages.

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Hot fish seeking cool water!

The warmer our waters get, the more common tropical species like this African pompano will become here. Florida Sea Grant Photo

All fish, minus opah and some tunas, are cold blooded. Thus, their body temperatures are regulated by the environment around them. Every fish species has an optimal temperature range — not only for survival, but also for growth and reproduction. Fish exhibit control over their thermal environment by seeking waters that are closer to their temperature optimum when waters become too warm or too cool.

High and low temperatures that are lethal for a particular species determines the distribution and abundance of its population. With water temperatures trending upward — the result of climate change — many fish are responding by shifting their latitudinal range, expanding their range, and/or moving to
deeper depths.

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Salty Topics: Tampa Bay Blue Carbon Project

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Do you know that Tampa Bay’s coastal ecosystems soak up and store carbon in a process called Coastal Blue Carbon? If not, come join us and Dr. David Tomasko for our Salty Topics speaker series!

Coastal Blue Carbon is a new term for carbon captured by living coastal and marine organisms and stored in coastal ecosystems. Mangroves, sea grass beds and salt marshes take up atmospheric carbon and store it in their systems throughout their life cycle. Also, these plants trap fine muddy sediments in their roots structures building thousands of years. Tampa Bay is a unique ecosystem as it is one of the few places in the U.S. to have three critical coastal habitats – mangroves, salt marsh, and seagrasses. Dr. David Tomasko, Principal Associate ESA, will share the results of the Tampa Bay Blue Carbon Project that was jointly funded by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and Restore America’s Estuaries.

The presentation will include:
• Carbon storage and sequestration rates for Tampa Bay habitats
• Impacts of land use change, including sea-level rise and management actions, on carbon in the estuary
• How blue carbon ecosystem services can inform management decisions and provide additional incentives to support conservation and restoration and adaptive management

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Water quality weekly roundup!

A view from space, showing the massive bloom of algae, which looks like streaks of fluorescent paint across the surface of Lake Okeechobee. The color and physical appearance of this surface bloom is highly indicative of a toxin-producing species of cyanobacteria called Microcystis. Photo source: NASA Earth Observatory

A view from space, showing the massive bloom of algae, which looks like streaks of fluorescent paint across the surface of Lake Okeechobee. The color and physical appearance of this surface bloom is highly indicative of a toxin-producing species of cyanobacteria called Microcystis. Photo source: NASA Earth Observatory

Did you know? You can now report algae blooms through this easy to use, smart phone friendly website.

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What YOU need to know about Sea Level Rise

Southwest Florida is experiencing sea level rise. However, if we inform ourselves with the science and plan collectively as a community, we will be more resilient to any potential impacts. After a careful review of scientific research and associated literature, the Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel, an ad-hoc group of local scientific experts, has drafted a “Recommended Projection of Sea Level Rise in the Tampa Bay Region“.  Come learn about the report, ask questions, and discuss next steps for our region at 7pm November 5th Salty Topics at Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702.‪

Beach ErosionThe recommendation provides guidance on what sea level rise projections should be incorporated into local planning efforts. The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC) has voted unanimously to accept the  Recommendation for distribution to local governments. The TBRPC One Bay Resilient Communities Working Group will continue to facilitate the discussion of adaptation planning with planners, emergency managers and government leaders to identify practical and incremental solutions to address sea level rise.

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Sea Level Rise Expert brings Science to Public Audience

chambersClimate Change and associated Sea Level Rise are complex topics. To interpret the science, the Salty Topics Marine Research Seminar Series is pleased to present Dr. Don Chambers, University of South Florida College of Marine Science, presenting “Sea Level Rise: What do We Know?”

The program will begin at 6:30pm, Thursday, November 7th with light refreshments & a viewing of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program King Tide Traveling Photo Exhibit. The series is hosted at Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. Register online at https://sealevelrise2013.eventbrite.com/.

Dr. Chambers will discuss the various tools that have been used to observe sea level rise since the early 1700s and present a summary of what we know about sea level rise, especially new insight gleaned from nearly global satellite and in situ measurements over the last two decades. We will discuss the relationship of sea level rise to climate change and the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets and discuss what we still need to understand in order to make more accurate predictions for future sea level rise.

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Join the Community Discussion about Climate Change

hands holding up globeSea level rise, shifting seasons and extreme weather are some of the climate change buzzwords that have become increasingly common. But do we really understand what they mean or how they will impact our lifestyles? Two forums are being held that will engage the public in a conversation about these important issues. You are invited to join the discussion.

“Climate: Change the Conversation” will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center in St. Petersburg.  A second forum will be offered from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26, at the St. Petersburg College, Fine Arts Auditorium in Tarpon Springs.

The program will include an introductory presentation and small group discussion about the potential effects of climate change in the Tampa Bay region. Each interactive station will highlight one local aspect of climate change and its associated impacts.

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From the Tailpipe to Tampa Bay – Air Pollution Research Reveals Impact of Cars

A comprehensive study that investigated the sources and extent of nitrogen fallout on Tampa Bay shows that cars, trucks, and other mobile vehicles deposit four times more nitrogen oxide, or NOx, in Tampa Bay than power plants.

Overall, power plants are the major sources of air emissions in the bay area. But mobile sources have a disproportionately larger impact, because emissions from cars, trucks and boats are generated closer to the ground, and more of their emissions wind up in the bay. The tall stacks of power plants, on the other hand, send emissions higher into the atmosphere, where a substantial portion is carried outside the bay watershed.

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In the News! Why Are Numeric Nutrient Criteria Important to You?

This is a simple diagram showing how nitrogen, an essential nutrient for all living things, enters our coastal waters. Too much nitrogen can result in poor water quality conditions. Florida Sea Grant image

Numeric nutrient criteria? What is that?

Not really a catchy phrase, that’s for sure. But this is an important concept that you may have been reading about in newspapers recently.

First, a little background. For years our standards for protecting the quality of inland and coastal waters have been based on qualitative descriptions, rather than hard numbers. However, a number of environmental organizations took exception to this approach, claiming that it was vague and that the Environmental Protection Agency was not fulfilling its role in fully implementing the Federal Clean Water Act. Those groups and the EPA said Florida needed specific, measurable numeric water quality standards that protected all bodies of water from environmental damage.

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Isaac Eyes Florida!

Tropical Storm Isaac has formed in the Caribbean and as of Thursday, August 23rd, the projected track puts nearly the entire state of Florida in the cone of uncertainty.  Portions of South Florida could begin to feel impacts from the storm as early as Sunday.

Now is the time to review your hurricane action plan.  Know your evacuation zone, prepare for your family and your home. If applicable, have a plan in place for your pets and your boat as well.  Factsheets by Pinellas County Extension on Preparing your Pet, Preparing your Boat, and Staying Connected During Storm Season are available at http://bit.ly/NXw0P5 .  For additional information on preparing your boat, view the video created by Florida Sea Grant at http://bit.ly/OX0MFg.

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