Environment

In South Florida, where the Everglades meet the bays, environmental challenges abound. Sea level rise threatens homes and real estate. Invasive species imperil native plants and animals. Pesticides reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, but at what cost? 

WLRN's award-winning environment reporting strives to capture the color and complexity of human interaction with one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.

A new study is calling attention to Florida’s groundwater as the state braces for sea level rise.

The Florida International University study examined South Florida flooding a mile inland.

Michael Sukop says the researchers found the flooding was caused by groundwater maintained at higher levels to help push back against encroaching sea water.

Al Diaz / Miami Herald

Waiting to address climate change could cost taxpayers in coastal cities — particularly in highly vulnerable Florida — in a way that not even the most progressive resiliency planners have considered.

Proterra website

More than 600 local policymakers and activists are set to share ideas on regional challenges at the Southeast Florida Climate Leadership Summit in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday and Friday. And sea level rise and traffic are likely to be major topics of conversation.

Roberto Koltun / Miami Herald

Less than halfway through Florida’s lucrative stone crab season, traps are drying up, dealing another blow to a fishing industry still recovering from a beating delivered by a brutal Hurricane Irma.

“Everybody’s feeling it,” said Walter Flores, owner of the Golden Rule Seafood in Palmetto Bay, which has been selling and serving stone crabs since 1943. Normally Flores starts taking orders for holiday crabs about now. But this year, he said, it’s first come, first serve.

“We have them,” he said, “but you have to offer more money to get them. It’s almost a bidding war.”

The Arctic is a huge, icy cap on the planet that acts like a global air conditioner. But the air conditioner is breaking down, according to scientists who issued a grim "report card" on the Arctic on Tuesday.

They say the North Pole continues to warm at an alarming pace — twice the rate as the rest of the planet, on average. This year was the Arctic's second-warmest in at least 1,500 years, after 2016.

A mysterious epidemic continues to sweep South Florida's reefs, transforming corals into lifeless skeletons and threatening undersea structures that support tourism, provide hurricane protection and serve as homes to a vast range of marine life.

Al Sunshine via Miami Herald

Bulldozers downing trees in pine rockland targeted for a Walmart-anchored shopping center were ordered to stop work Friday after a federal judge issued an emergency injunction sought by environmentalists fighting to save the vanishing forest.

Patrick Farell / Miami Herald

Federal wildlife managers on Tuesday cleared the way for a Walmart-anchored strip mall in one of the world’s rarest forests, a tract of vanishing pine rockland inhabited by butterflies, bats, snakes and fragile wildflowers found no place else.

Allen Eyestone / Palm Beach Post

Water managers planning a massive Everglades reservoir to help end polluted releases from Lake Okeechobee that regularly foul both coasts unveiled early drafts of the project Tuesday.

Michal Kranz / WLRN

They call it "the fish that saved Biscayne."

In the 1970s, conservationists were pushing for federal legislation to protect a portion of Biscayne Bay that's home to rare coral reefs, sea turtles and wood storks. As part of their campaign, they took Pennsylvania Congressman John Saylor out on a fishing trip.

"He caught a sailfish... and after he went back to Washington, they took his sailfish and they smoked the fish," says park ranger Gary Bremen. "The story is that he served the smoked fish in committee while they discussed the bill creating Biscayne National Monument."

Amy Green / WMFE

Lake Okeechobee’s receding water is offering a clearer view of Irma’s environmental impact.

The water is down by about a foot since the hurricane but remains high at more than 16 feet.

Paul Gray of Audubon of Florida says the water and muck stirred from the lake’s bottom prevent sunlight from reaching important plant communities.

And those plants serve as nurseries for fish.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra cellist Dan Katz has two cellos. The better one — the one he prefers to play with the orchestra — is 200 years old and has rosewood tuning pegs. When the orchestra went on an 11-concert European tour in January, he purposefully left it home.

"I worry with that instrument about international travel now, because of those pegs," Katz said after rehearsing for a performance of Schubert's Ninth Symphony earlier this month.

Among the starkest markers of sea level rise are what scientists describe as ghost forests, coastal thickets left in waste by creeping salt water.

The Executive Director of Florida’s wildlife agency is leaving. He’s the latest to step down from a top role at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

AP

Deerfield Beach is following Miami Beach's lead in prohibiting plastic foam containers, like Styrofoam, on the sand.

Deerfield Beach officials banned polystyrene containers, like coffee cups and coolers, from all city events starting October 1. Even vendors can’t use the material, which isn’t biodegradable and often ends up in the ocean.

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