Improving Natural Defenses Against Climate Change in Cape Sable

In a changing climate, South Florida needs to buy time to improve resilience. Restoring the Everglades offers the opportunity for both.

The Everglades is South Florida’s natural defense against the effects of climate change. Wetlands are carbon sinks, floodwater retention areas, and barriers to extreme wind and storm surge. Additionally, fresh water from wetlands helps slow saltwater intrusion into wellfields.

Cape Sable, tucked into the southwest corner of Florida, epitomizes both the consequences of wetland degradation and the urgency of restoration. Canals constructed across the state during the 1920’s have allowed saltwater to advance inland, collapsing marshlands and impacting wildlife habitat. Decaying peat soils reduce elevation, furthering saltwater encroachment.

The Cape Sable restoration project aims to restore habitat by plugging manmade canals to eliminate the unnatural exchange of salt and freshwater in sensitive freshwater wetlands. This will restore natural ecological processes to the Cape Sable region, slowing saltwater intrusion and allowing wildlife time to adjust to the changing conditions.

Audubon is continuing to spearhead the effort to secure the funding needed to complete the project. With the first phase completed in 2011, completing phase two of the Cape Sable restoration will set a precedent for the importance of restoring habitat on the front lines of sea level rise and increasing South Florida’s resilience through comprehensive restoration efforts across the Everglades region.

Recognizing the vital role of wetlands, Audubon’s climate action plan prioritizes investing in green infrastructure and accelerating Everglades restoration, as well as tracking bird migration patterns that are key to protecting vital habitat.

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