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Image Credit: FCE LTER

How sensitive are coastal ecosystems to sharp changes in temperature? Using a detailed spatial analysis in the Florida Everglades, researchers found that cold snaps reduced ecosystem productivity most dramatically in areas with low water levels that were located away from the coast. With more extreme weather events predicted in the future, knowing the likely effects of low temperature events on subtropical wetlands systems can inform management of these important ecosystems.

Over a four year period (2009-2012), researchers sampled three sites across the Florida Everglades National Park, accounting for variations in water inundation heights and duration across freshwater marshes as well as coastal mangrove forests. Results demonstrated that a site’s sensitivity to low temperature events (<5°C) varied by water level and geographic proximity to the coast, both of which influence the frequency and intensity of these cold weather events. At sites where low temperature events were less frequent, photosynthetic capacity declined more sharply in response. The differences in CO2 assimilation rates in response to temperature highlights the changes that could occur to species and ecosystem functioning in response to climate change.