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A University of Central Florida biologist has received a $700,000 grant to complete the first-ever statewide study of the impact of rising sea level on some of the most vulnerable natural and human communities in Florida.

A University of Central Florida biologist has received a $700,000 grant to complete the first-ever statewide study of the impact of rising sea level on some of the most vulnerable natural and human communities in Florida.

The grant, from the Kresge Foundation, will allow Reed Noss, Provost's Distinguished Research Professor, to lead a team of scientists to map projected changes in sea level and identify the species and populations that will have to migrate or face extinction.

The implications are profound for the state, which is low-lying and surrounded by water.

"Even at slow rates of change, sea level rise can cause communities to come apart as species respond to increasing salinity and other changes," Noss said.

As the ocean rises by a projected 0.8 to 1.9 meters or more by the year 2100, vegetation such as coastal mangroves and salt marshes will be threatened, and mammals such as Florida's endangered Key deer will be forced to relocate or perish. Migration is complicated, Noss said, by human infrastructure in the way and the fact that different species move at different speeds, meaning the entire ecosystem becomes disrupted.

The Kresge Foundation, which awarded the $700,000 grant, funds projects to improve the life circumstances of poor and low-income children and adults, and those living in underserved urban and rural communities. A year ago the foundation announced new strategies geared toward helping society mitigate the serious impacts of climate change.

(From University of Central Florida Office of Research & Commercialization.)

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