Impacts of Hurricane Irma on Florida Bay Islands, Everglades National Park, USA

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Hurricane Irma made landfall in south Florida, USA, on September 10, 2017 as a category 4 storm. In January 2018, fieldwork was conducted on four previously (2014) sampled islands in Florida Bay, Everglades National Park to examine changes between 2014 and 2018. The objectives were to determine if the net impact of the storm was gain or loss of island landmass and/or elevation; observe and quantify impacts to mangroves; and identify distinctive sedimentary, biochemical, and/or geochemical signatures of the storm. Storm overwash deposits were measured in the field and, in general, interior island mudflats appeared to experience deposition ranging from ~ 0.5 to ~ 6.5 cm. Elevation changes were measured using real-time kinematic positioning and satellite receivers. Comparison of 2014 to 2018 elevation measurements indicates mangrove berms and transitional areas between mudflats and berms experienced erosion and loss of elevation, whereas interior mudflats gained elevation, possibly due to Hurricane Irma. Geographic information system analysis of pre- and post-storm satellite imagery indicates the western-most island, closest to the eye of the storm, lost 32 to 42% (~ 11 to 13 m) of the width of the eastern berm, and vegetated coverage was reduced 9.3% or ~ 9700 m2. Vegetated coverage on the eastern-most island was reduced by 1.9% or ~ 9200 m2. These results are compared to previous accounts of hurricane impacts and provide a baseline for examining long-term constructive and destructive aspects of hurricanes on the islands and the role of storms in resiliency of Florida Bay islands.




Wingard, G. L., Bergstresser, S. E., Stackhouse, B. L., Jones, M. C., Marot, M. E., Hoefke, K., … Keller, K. (2020). Impacts of Hurricane Irma on Florida Bay Islands, Everglades National Park, USA. Estuaries and Coasts, 43(5), 1070–1089.

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