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Florida Keys Carrying Capacity Study

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The Florida Keys have long been recognized at local, state and national levels as ecologically rich, culturally significant and environmentally sensitive. The Florida Keys attract a growing number of visitors and new residents. To assure the sustainability of the Keys unique resources, comprehensive planning is required to address the complexity of the situation. Conducting a Florida Keys Carrying Capacity Study (FKCCS) is the best way to complement and assist the planning effort. This study will provide an information database and an analysis of consequences (i.e. a planning tool) that may be used to determine the level of land development activities that will avoid further irreversible and/or adverse impacts to the Florida Keys ecosystem.

The carrying capacity analysis shall be designed to determine the ability of the Florida Keys ecosystem, and the various segments thereof, to withstand all impacts of additional land development activities. The carrying capacity analysis shall consider aesthetic, socioeconomic (including sustainable tourism), quality of life and community character issues, including the concentration of population, the amount of open space, diversity of habitats, and species richness. The analysis shall reflect the interconnected nature of the Florida Keys' natural systems, but may consider and analyze the carrying capacity of specific islands or groups of islands and specific ecosystems or habitats, including distinct parts of the Keys' marine system. (Florida Administrative Weekly, April 12, 1996)

The FKCCS explores past (where possible), present and future impacts on that ecosystem. Several scenarios representing potential, realistic future conditions in the Keys will be developed by local planners, with input from the public, and will be analyzed as part of the Study. Each scenario, with its set of assumptions, will be analyzed to estimate any impacts it may have on identifiable Florida Keys components or the Study categories, such as natural resources, human infrastructure and the social environment. An interactive, spatially explicit Carrying Capacity Analysis Model (CCAM) will be developed that will simulate the conditions of land development activities and population growth, through time, described by the various input assumptions. Utilizing relationships that describe land development and population growth impacts on the Study categories, CCAM will determine and inventory the impacts. Next, CCAM will compare the impacts on the Study categories with their associated requirements, responses, limiting factors and thresholds. CCAM will then spatially identify the Study category element(s) whose carrying capacities may have been exceeded. In the case of the human infrastructure, the cost estimate for retrofitting and/or new construction to meet the additional population requirements will be provided. This paper discusses the background of the FKCCS, describes the Study approach and discusses public input received to date.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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