Beaches and Shorelines Sub-model for the Southeast Florida Conceptual Ecosystem Model

Beaches and Shorelines Sub-model for the

Southeast Florida Conceptual Ecosystem Model

Co-Principal Investigators: Frank Marshall, Cetacean Logic Foundation, Inc., New Smyrna Beach, Florida; Kenneth Banks, Broward County Natural Resources Planning and Management Division

 

·    Beaches are dynamic ecosystems that are relatively easily impacted by anthropogenic activities

·    A beaches and shoreline sub-model was developed for the Southeast Florida coast

·    The best ecological indicator for South Florida beaches appears to be Ocypode (ghost crabs).

·    Sea turtles are not included as an ecological indicator for Southeast Florida beaches because habitat is affected by anthropogenic activities and nests exhibit considerable variability due to natural climate and physical factors

ABSTRACT

Beaches are dynamic landscapes valued by humans because of the proximity of the ocean, the access for recreation and hunter-gatherer purposes, and habitat for plants and animals.  According to Jones et al (2009), the primary threats to the world’s beach ecosystems include climate-change, erosion, nourishment, shoreline hardening off-road vehicles, beach cleaning, pollution, fisheries, sand removal (mining), and introduced species.  All of these apply to the Southeast Florida beach ecosystem except off-road vehicles.  The beach and shoreline ecosystem has a variety of functions that are important to society as a whole and people in particular. A beaches and shoreline sub-model was developed for the Southeast Florida coast as part of the NOAA Marine and Estuarine Goal-setting for South Florida (MARES) Project.  The attributes of the beach and shoreline ecosystem that people care about include access to the ocean, area to recreate, storm protection, and ecological function as habitat. In addition people want the beach to be free of litter and other forms of pollution.  As part of the MARES effort, several candidate beaches and shorelines indicators were identified, including Donax (coquina clam), Emerita talpoida (mole crabs or sand fleas), and Ocypode (ghost crabs).  Sea turtle nests were originally considered as a candidate indicator.  However sea turtle habitat is affected by anthropogenic activities (nourishment, shoreline hardening, etc.), and sea turtle nests exhibit considerable variability due to natural climate and physical factors, so sea turtles are not included as an ecological indicator for Southeast Florida beaches.  Although there may not currently be sufficient data in Southeast Florida on ghost crabs (Ocypode) to assess the health of the various beach environments, the relatively simple monitoring strategy for ghost crabs (counting burrows) means that distribution and abundance data can be easily obtained.  Because of this, ghost crabs (Ocypode) are recommended as the “best” ecological indicator for Southeast Florida beach ecosystems.

 






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