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Irma Serves Another Blow To Fragile Everglades

Florida Everglades. Photo: Chauncey Davis on Flickr.
Florida Everglades. Photo: Chauncey Davis on Flickr.

Researchers fear Hurricane Irma's impact in the Everglades is exacerbated by sea level rise and long efforts to drain the watershed.

Irma crossed the western Everglades as a Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane.

Evelyn Gaiser of Florida International University says historically the watershed would have been resilient, but that sea level rise and a shortage of fresh water have left it vulnerable.

"We find that there are changes in the resilience in the ecosystem that determine the way an event like this plays out."

She says the hurricane brought with it a storm surge of up to eight feet and tore up vital sea grass beds in Florida Bay, but that the rain represented a healthy dose of fresh water.

The fragile Everglades are the subject of a $17 billion restoration.

Amy Green covered the environment for WMFE until 2023. Her work included the 2020 podcast DRAINED.