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Sustainability of subtropical coastal zones in southeastern Florida: Challenges for urbanized coastal environments threatened by development, pollution, water supply, and storm hazards
Finkl, C.W.; Charlier, R.H. (2003). Sustainability of subtropical coastal zones in southeastern Florida: Challenges for urbanized coastal environments threatened by development, pollution, water supply, and storm hazards. J. Coast. Res. 19(4): 934-943
In: Journal of Coastal Research. Coastal Education and Research Foundation: Fort Lauderdale. ISSN 0749-0208, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 
    VLIZ: Open Repository 230845 [ OMA ]

Keyword
    Marine
Author keywords
    environmental integrity; submarine groundwater discharge; nutrient

Authors  Top 
  • Finkl, C.W.
  • Charlier, R.H., more

Abstract
    The subtropical Atlantic coastal zone of southeastern Florida supports nearly 7 million inhabitants on a coastal plain conurbation that stretches from West Palm Beach to Miami. About a quarter of the present population originally settled on higher topography along the shore-parallel Atlantic Coastal Ridge. From about the middle 1900s, however, urbanization intensified along the shore and spread westward into freshwater marshlands. Population densities approaching 2500 persons per km-2 along some coastal sectors and dredge and fill operations to create urban land in western marshes degraded coastal environments bringing in question sustainability. Efforts to maintain environmental integrity initially focused on shore protection first via "hard" engineering works, which later ont included massive beach renourishment projects along developed coasts subject to critical erosion. Marine algal blooms, led to eutrophication, degraded coastal water quality, and deterioration of coral reefs indicate environmental problems at least as serious as beach erosion. Recognition of a potential eco-catastrophe, collapse of entire marine and coastal wetland ecosystems in southern Florida, led turn to the Everglades Restoration Project, the largest single environmental recovery effort in the world. Cleanup of terrestrial systems is essential to sustainability of marine ecosystems now jeopardized by nutrient loading.
    Serious degradation of the Florida Reef Tract, a coral-algal barrier reef system, is beyond question as extensive sectors of coral reef die from increased loading of nearshore waters by elevated nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) nutrient levels delivered to the coast by submarine groundwater discharge (SGD). The source of N-P input into the Biscayne Aquifer, which has one of the highest carbonate aquifer transmissivities in the world, is sugar cane farming in the Everglades Agricultural Area on the inner portion of the coastal plain. Groundwater discharges for Palm Beach County are, for example, estimated from a groundwater MODFLOW model at 1,659 X 106 m3 yr-1. Total N in groundwater below the coastal plain adjacent to remnant Everglades averages about 1.25 mg l-1. SGD nutrient fluxes to the coast are 5727 and 414 metric tons per year for P and N, respectively. Surface water contributions for P and N are respectively 197 and 2,471 metric tons per year. Nutrient delivery to beach and nearshore environments is a serious problem that threatens coastal water quality which in turn will impact tourism-related activities such as sunbathing, beach walking, swimming, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, and surf fishing. The full magnitude of the problem has yet to surface because it takes about three to eight decades for groundwater from the interior parts of the coastal plain to reach the nearshore zone. Pollution of groundwater increases with time due to higher doses of fertilizers on croplands and runoff from expanding urban areas.
    Solutions to present environmental threats are obvious and, perhaps surprisingly, do not fall within the scientific arena because causes and remedies are already known and future impacts are anticipated. The present environmental cleanup efforts, which are of mammoth proportions and financial cost, are doomed to failure until the causes of problems are eliminated or neutralized. Even though sustainable management procedures are well known, sustainability cannot be achieved by treating symptoms. Sustainable coastal habitats in subtropical southeast Florida will be secured when there is application of best management practices based on environmental ethics rather than capital gain, development of political will directed towards continuous multiple land use rather than terminal single use, and inculcation of proactive public perception of best land management practices rather than politically-correct land-use policies.

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