Dec. 8: Evenings at Whitney – Florida’s Coastal Ecosystems and Global Change
The Evenings at Whitney Lecture Series hosted by the University of Florida Whitney Laboratory returned on Dec. 8, 2016, at 7 p.m. with the program titled “Florida’s Coastal Ecosystems and Global Change.” University of Florida Distinguished Professor of Biology Francis “Jack” Putz talked about how the natural ecosystems along the coast of Florida are changing rapidly in response to a diversity of local and global ecological, economic, social and political forces. This presentation, which was the last in the fall series, utilized a unique and interactive workshop-style format. This presentation was free and open to the public and took place at Lohman Auditorium, 9505 Ocean Shore Blvd., on the Whitney Laboratory campus.
Ongoing changes in Florida’s coastal ecosystems are caused by many factors, including sea level rise, increase of storm surges, rise of sea surface temperatures, intensification of hurricanes, expansion of invasive exotic species, global warming and human developments. With so many forces affecting Florida’s coastal ecosystems, identifying the exact causes of change is a complicated process. This presentation led the audience through this complex process.
Putz began the session with a short talk based on multi-decadal studies of the dynamics of ecosystems on the Gulf coast of Florida. Next, he worked with attendees to develop their own graphical/conceptual models of coastal ecosystem dynamics in response to the many drivers of change. Attendees were encouraged to bring a pencil and paper, or the electronic equivalent, and come ready to collaborate and capture some of the complexity of forces and processes that determine the fates of the coastal landscapes. Before attending this presentation, attendees were encouraged to read the three-page article titled “Coastal Forests Retreat” by Putz that provides background information.
Putz has been a faculty member at the University of Florida since 1982. Although he was trained as an ecologist/silviculturalist, his goal of helping to save nature while enhancing human welfare caused him to include in his research and advocacy the consideration of economic, social and political factors. Based on this interdisciplinary platform, Putz and his collaborators in Florida, Indonesia, Bolivia, Gabon and elsewhere promote more environmentally sound treatment of the planet.