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Focus on Climate Change

The world’s climate is changing and the impacts on Florida will be acute

Sea level rise alone poses one of the greatest threats to low-lying Florida, where it could harm private property and infrastructure and important wildlife habitat such as beaches, mangrove forests and marshes.

Changing weather patterns could decrease water quality in lakes, rivers and estuaries, thus affecting aquatic wildlife populations.

Ocean acidification, caused by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, will not only kill coral reefs, but can also prevent shelled mollusks such as oysters, clams, conchs and whelks from building shells.

Such changes, of course, could have a major negative impact on human health as well as the area’s economy, including tourism and real estate.

FGCU faculty are already conducting climate change research: looking at the effects of changes in temperature and salinity on the physiology of animals; monitoring the effects of Hurricane Irma on mangrove forests, which protect communities from wind and storm surge.

Decorative image of Dr. Tolley

As part of a grant, and along with the University of Florida, University of Miami and the U.S. Geological Survey, FGCU marine science professors Mike Savarese and Felix Jose are developing models to show decision makers in Collier County what the coastline will look like at various times in the future as sea level rises.

Obviously, climate change is the big environmental story of the 21st century, and FGCU’s Water School is in the right place at the right time to meet it head-on.

There’s a window of opportunity now where we need to be making the kinds of investments that will allow us to adapt to the changes we will be facing in the future if we’re going to continue to have the quality of life and the kind of life we have right now.”

- Greg Tolley, Ph.D.

Professor of Marine Science, Chair of the Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences