Rising sea levels are transforming the Florida Everglades, a new study shows. Plant communities that thrive in salt water are expanding along the coast, leaving less room for plants that depend on fresh water.
Salt-loving mangroves in the Everglades have marched inland in the past decade, while freshwater plants - such as saw grass, spike rush and tropical hardwood trees - lost ground, according to a study published in the October 2013 issue of the journal Wetlands.
The findings, which come from an analysis of satellite imagery from 2001 through 2010, match long-term trends tracked on the ground for the past 70 years, said lead study author Douglas Fuller, a geographer at the University of Miami.
"I was very surprised at how well the results matched our understanding of long-term trends and field data," Fuller said in a statement. "Normally, we don't see such clear patterns."
Satellite imagery of the southern Everglades - a region that includes Florida City, Key Largo and the upper Keys - revealed large patches of freshwater vegetation loss within 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) of the coast. Only freshwater plants in the interior, about 5 miles inland (8 km), showed growth trends, the researchers found.