Related to sea level rise, another issue affecting coastal communities is ecosystem change. Habitat migration – the gradual replacement of one natural environment by another – is a key concern when planning for the future of Florida’s coastal communities. As the average sea level rises, salt water inundates fresh and brackish water systems, killing many plants and forcing some animals to relocate. When the speed of habitat migration outpaces the ability of natural areas to transition, major ecological problems can occur. Because Levy County is relatively flat and low-lying, habitat migration occurs even faster. Evidence of accelerates habitat migration is best seen on the coast. Illustrated below are the effects of habitat migration in Waccasassa Bay. As water advances inwards, elevated portions of land form ‘islands’ of trees – also known as coastal forest – while lower land turns into marsh. Over time, the coastal forests are overtaken by marsh and the marshland itself becomes open water. Planning for habitat migration is essential for the continued success of Florida’s Nature Coast estuaries. Maintaining as much coastal forest as possible helps protect against storm surge and flooding caused by storms. It also defends the sensitive habitats necessary for fish and wildlife growth – a major source of the regions income.
The video below highlights the the impacts of sea level rise on habitat migration in the Waccasassa Bay State Park.