HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Paul Baldauf, Ph.D

Second Advisor

J. Matthew Hoch, Ph.D

Third Advisor

Matthew Johnston, Ph.D


Climate change is accelerating beyond what is natural due to excessive emissions from human activities. The sea level has been rising for many years and is currently at a rate of 3.6 mm/yr. Mangroves are known to only keep pace with a sea level rate of less than 1.2 mm/yr. Mangroves are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels if they are not able to keep pace through vertical sediment accretion or inland migration. To test the vulnerability of the south Florida mangrove ecosystems to sea level rise, this study analyzed changes in the mangrove forest coverage of the Oleta River State Park over a period of 56 years. An analysis of Oleta was chosen to be representative of a South Florida mangrove ecosystem due to its accessibility. The mangrove population within Oleta River State Park, residing in an area with low sedimentation rates and anthropogenic constraints on the landward side, is at risk due to sea level rise. An ArcGIS analysis of archival aerial imagery from specific years available was undertaken to determine mangrove area and the cause of change. The analysis found a fluctuation in mangrove area over the past 50 years due to human development and mangrove regrowth. Ultimately there was a 42% decrease and a total loss of 3.0 km2 in mangrove area between 1961 and 2017. Field surveys discovered many stressors experienced by the mangroves, including pollution, invasive species and sea level rise. The results suggest that while the majority of change in area of the ecosystems was due to development, nonetheless, 11% of change was due to Australian pine growth and 2% due to shoreline loss. These results support the need for effective management plans to conserve these important ecosystems.