Researcher to explore sustainability of freshwater resources

FIU is part of a consortium of universities launching a study on water sustainability in the Sunbelt, with hopes of making policy recommendations on water resource management.

John Kominoski, who will join FIU’s Department of Biological Sciences in January, is part of a research team that will use historical data to determine how climate, population, water use, and water management policies have affected the sustainability of freshwater resources. This includes ecosystem health and availability for human use. Kominoski, an aquatic ecologist, will focus on fish biodiversity and ecosystem health in river basins in Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona and now, Florida.

“Water sustainability and resource management is a critical, global issue,” Kominoski said. “The university has partnerships with government and non-government agencies, and with the Long-Term Ecological Research Network, that will be invaluable to this project. I am excited to extend my research focus to South Florida, specifically the terrestrial-aquatic coastal ecotone of the Everglades.”

The project, formally titled Water Sustainability Under Near-Term Climate Change: A Cross-Regional Analysis Incorporating Socio-Ecological Feedbacks and Adaptations, is funded by a $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant. The effort is led by North Carolina State University and includes Arizona State University, UGA and FIU.

“Fishes are among the top consumers in river networks. The southeast, especially Florida, is very rich in aquatic biodiversity,” Kominoski said. “I want to understand how biodiversity in ecosystems influences carbon processing pathways and rates. This is key in balancing human and aquatic ecosystem needs for carbon.”

The researchers will also create hindcast models to forecast the state of freshwater resources in the southern United States in the next 10-30 years. These forecasts will serve as the basis for their water management policy recommendations across the Sunbelt.

“This research is critical to the Sunbelt because human population is increasing the fastest in this region,” Kominoski said. “Water resources are also declining because this region lacks bodies of water with large and long-term storage capacities, like the Great Lakes in the Midwest. If we value the quality of life for our human and non-human populations, we can use research like this to predict water availability and make better resource management decisions in the near-term.”

Originally from Chicago, Kominoski earned a Ph.D. in ecology from UGA in 2008. Kominoski began his research in ecology in midwestern streams and rivers. He has been conducting research in streams and rivers in the Southern Appalachian Mountains for the past 10 years.