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Project Work Plan

Department of Interior USGS GE PES

Fiscal Year 2009 Study Work Plan

Study Title: Determining Target Salinity Values for South Florida's Estuaries: The Combined Effects of Climate, Sea Level, and Water Management Practices
Study Start Date: 10/1/06 Study End Date: 9/30/2010
Web Sites: http://sofia.usgs.gov/exchange/flaecohist/, http://sofia.usgs.gov/projects/index.php?project_url=salinity_values
Location (Subregions, Counties, Park or Refuge): Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, Ten Thousand Islands NWR. Monroe, Collier, and Lee Counties, FL.
Funding Source: GE PES
Other Complementary Funding Source(s): None at this time
Funding History: FY07; FY08, FY09
Principal Investigator(s): G. Lynn Wingard
Study Personnel: T. Cronin, M. Marot, J. Murray, T. Colley; USGS. Frank Marshall, Contractor. ETI Contract personnel: 3 technicians and Joel Hudley, Research Assistant.
Supporting Organizations: South Florida Water Management District; Everglades National Park; Biscayne National Park, Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Associated / Linked Studies: Historical Changes in Salinity, Water Quality and Vegetation in Biscayne Bay (ended in FY06); Synthesis of South Florida Ecosystem History Research (ended in FY07); Ecosystem History of the Southwest Coast-Shark River Slough Outflow Area.

Overview & Objective(s):

The primary objective of this project is to provide information to CERP managers that can be used to establish target salinity values and performance measures for the estuaries and coastal ecosystems. The information provided will consider the contribution of climate, sea level rise and anthropogenic alteration on salinity values in the estuaries and coastal systems of south Florida. This work will build upon previous work in Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay, and information derived from the Synthesis (study ended FY07) of these data. There are four areas of focus for this project. 1) Refine our existing modern analog data set by completing analyses of modern samples collected between 1996 and 2004 and applying these improved analog data to core data compiled in the Synthesis Study. 2) Collect new cores (if necessary) within the southern estuaries to fill in information gaps identified by the land management agencies (Everglades National Park (ENP) and Biscayne National Park (BNP)), and by the Southern Estuaries Subteam of the Regional Evaluation Team (RET) of RECOVER. 3) Select a few sites in the transition zones to collect cores in a transect moving perpendicular to shore in order to analyze the rate of sea level rise in the region. 4) Work with our collaborators to input paleoecology data into linear regression models that can hindcast salinity for different parts of the system. Ultimately these efforts will lead to the ability to forecast the data and develop targets for the CERP 2050 Plan that take natural change into consideration.

Specific Relevance to Major Unanswered Questions and Information Needs Identified: (Page numbers below refer to DOI Science Plan.)

The importance and application of ecosystem history research to restoration goals has been identified in a number of documents.  The DOI Science Plan lists as one of the three primary restoration activities the need to "ensure that hydrologic performance targets accurately reflect the natural predrainage hydrology and ecology" (DOI Science Plan, p. 14). The USGS Science Plan for south Florida (2003 draft, msp. 7) identifies five primary science goals, the second of which is to "determine the historical ecological setting of the Everglades." The primary goal of this project, and related previous ecosystem history projects, is to determine the predrainage hydrology and ecology of critical regions within the estuaries and coastal ecosystems of south Florida, identified by the Southern Estuaries Subteam and other client groups, which have been tasked with setting performance measures and targets for these coastal zones.

This project specifically addresses the needs identified by the Southern Estuaries Subteam of the Regional Evaluation Team (RET) of RECOVER. The Southern Estuaries Subteam is tasked with establishing performance measures and salinity targets for the estuaries and initially the intent was to use the Natural Systems Model (NSM) as the primary basis for the target values. In spring 2005, however, the subteam ran simulations using the NSM for the Initial CERP Update (ICU) that returned salinity values far in excess of any anticipated. They therefore determined that the NSM was not a reliable indicator of near shore salinity patterns, and they have indicated a desire to rely on paleosalinity data to establish targets and performance measures. Coverage of cores in southern Biscayne Bay and northern Florida Bay is limited, however, with each basin having characteristic patterns. This project builds upon earlier projects and fills in information gaps identified by the Southern Estuaries Subteam for Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay, and potentially parts of the southwest coastal area.

While the primary goal of this project is to provide data to assist in the establishment of sustainable salinity targets and performance measures, this project also addresses a number of other restoration needs identified in the RFP. The data we gather can be used by the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project to assist in developing minimum flows and levels. Our data on the biota present over time and their changes in response to changing water conditions can be used to address questions about natural habitats including the following: 1) the impact of existing and proposed freshwater flows on coastal communities; 2) responses of native organisms to the introduction of exotic species. We will examine the role of climate and sea level rise on changing salinity patterns in the coastal communities, how these natural changes have been over-printed by anthropogenic change, and how sea level and climate should be factored into restoration targets.

A number of specific "major unanswered questions" asked in the DOI Science Plan can be answered by this research. These include the following:

Florida Bay and Florida Keys Feasibility Study
  1. "What are the links between freshwater inflows to Florida Bay and the ecology of the bay?" (DOI Science Plan, p. 65)
  2. "What is the ecological response to hydrologic change?" (DOI Science Plan, p. 66).
Additional Water for Everglades National Park and Biscayne Bay Feasibility Study
  1. "What were the physical and ecological conditions in Shark River and Taylor Sloughs and Biscayne Bay prior to drainage and modification...?" (DOI Science Plan, p. 63),
  2. "What are the hydrologic targets needed to mimic historic flows...?" (DOI Science Plan, p. 63).
Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project
  1. "How much freshwater, and in what seasonal patterns, was delivered historically to Biscayne Bay?" (DOI Plan, p. 63),
  2. "What are the links between hydrology and ecology in the Biscayne Bay coastal wetlands?" (DOI Science Plan, p. 64), and
  3. "What are the key indicators of natural ecological response in Biscayne Bay coastal wetlands?" (DOI Science Plan, p. 66)
  4. "What are the baseline conditions of the indicators?" (DOI Science Plan, p. 66).

This study supports these CERP projects by 1) conducting research to understand the predrainage hydrology, including the amount, timing and seasonality of freshwater delivered to the estuaries historically; 2) examining the historical environmental conditions, including the linkage between hydrology (water quality and quantity), ecology, and habitats; 3) providing modelers with data on historic conditions in order to set targets and performance measures that reflect natural hydrologic patterns; and 4) providing long-term historical data on trends and cycles within the biological component of the ecosystem that can be forecasted to predict the effects of implementation of hydrologic restoration on the ecology of coastal communities.

Specific Relevance to USGS Mission:

This project is directly related to the USGS Science Strategy (USGS Circ. 1309) - Understanding Ecosystems and Predicting Ecosystem Change.  We are investigating the causes and consequences of ecological change and are developing and providing methods for protecting and managing the South Florida Ecosystem - methods which can be applied to other ecosystems around the country and around the world.  We are interpreting for the land managers and policy makers how current and future rates of change will affect the natural resources and societal infrastructure of South Florida.  In addition, the project contributes significantly to the Climate Variability and Change Science Strategy by examining the effects of climate and sea level rise on the South Florida ecosystem over historically significant time periods. Using historical records, we can project future states under various IPCC scenarios and how those scenarios may affect restoration planning.

Status: Significant progress was made in FY08. We have successfully demonstrated the utility of the coupled Linear Regression / Paleoecology Model and published the results in a peer reviewed journal.  The modern proxy data have been compiled and tested against known salinities and shown to be a reliable indicator of salinity with a correlation coefficient of 0.8 at a 95% confidence level. These modern proxy data were improved in 2008 by targeting low salinity field sites for investigation. We successfully located living indicator mollusk species, previously only found in cores.  Results from the modeling efforts and development of the molluscan salinity transfer function have been presented at several national and regional meetings. Collaboration on the development of salinity targets with the Southern Estuaries sub-team of RECOVER has continued, and a set of preliminary salinity targets has been developed.

Recent Products:

  1. Marshall, F.E., Wingard, G.L., Pitts, P.A., 2008 (online first DOI 10.1007/s12237-008-9120-1), [2-2009 paper copy] A Simulation of Historic Hydrology and Salinity in Everglades National Park: Coupling Paleoecologic Assemblage Data with Regression Models: Estuaries and Coasts, 17 p.
  2. Marshall, F. Wingard, G.L., Buckingham, C. 2008. An initial evaluation of the effect of sea level rise on salinity in Florida Bay using statistical methods and models: Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Conference Abstracts, p. 270.
  3. Marshall, F.E., Wingard, G.L., Pitts, Patrick, Gaiser, Evelyn, and Wachnicka, Ania. 2008. Development of a consensus reconstruction of the pre-drainage Everglades hydrology and Florida Bay salinity using paleoecological information from multiple sediment cores coupled with statistical models: Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Conference Abstracts, p. 272.
  4. Wingard, G.L. and Marshall, F.E. 2008. Restoration and sea-level rise: the role of paleoecologic data in incremental adaptive management strategies: Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Conference Abstracts, p. 475.
  5. Wingard, G.L., 2008, Ecosystem History of Florida Bay and the Southern Estuaries - Five Year Update: Florida Bay and Adjacent Marine Systems Science Conference Abstracts, p. 9-14.
  6. Marshall, F.E., Wingard, G.L., Pitts, P., Gaiser, E., Wachnicka, A., 2008, A Comparison of the Pre-Drainage Everglades Hydrology and Florida Bay Salinity Based on Paleoecology from Multiple Sediment Cores Coupled with Statistical Models: Florida Bay and Adjacent Marine Systems Science Conference Abstracts, p. 131-132.
  7. Wingard, G.L. and Hudley, J.W., 2008, Verification of a Molluscan Dataset for Paleosalinity Estimation Using Modern Analogues: A Tool for Restoration of South Florida's Estuaries: Florida Bay and Adjacent Marine Systems Science Conference Abstracts, p. 160-161.
  8. Presentations to client agencies at GE PES organized Climate Workshop - February 2008: "Impact of Global Change and Sea Level Rise on South Florida's Estuaries" (Wingard) and "Climate and Sea Level Change: Issues for South Florida Restoration" (Cronin).

Planned Products:

  1. Journal Article on Rankin Basin Core - coupling paleoecologic results to Linear Regression Model - planned for mid FY09 - Wingard, Marshall and Hudley - authors.
  2. Journal article on molluscan salinity transfer function - planned for early to mid FY09 - Wingard and Hudley - authors.
  3. Synthesis of data on sea level rise in south Florida, in form of report and/or journal article, plus presentations
  4. A glossy publication (USGS Circular and fact sheet) summarizing the history of south Florida's estuaries in a format that would appeal to the general public and to land managers - conclusion of project

WORK PLAN

Title of Task 1: Development of Salinity Targets for CERP through application of Paleoecologic Data
Task Funding: USGS Priority Ecosystems Science
Task Leaders: G.L. Wingard
Phone: GLW: 703-648-5352
FAX: 703-648-6953
Task Status (proposed or active): Active
Task priority: High
Time Frame for Task 1: FY07-FY2010
Task Personnel: G.L. Wingard, J.B. Murray, M. Marot, J. Hudley

Task Summary and Objectives:

The purpose of this task is to compile and consolidate all existing information on paleosalinity and provide this information to the Southern Estuaries Subteam of the Regional Evaluation Team (RET) of RECOVER to assist them in developing interim salinity targets for restoration. Working with the sub-team, we will identify any existing data gaps that need to be filled. There are three specific objectives for this task. 1) Refine our existing modern analog data set by completing analyses of modern samples collected between 1996 and 2004 and applying these improved analog data to core data compiled in the Synthesis Project. 2) Collect new cores (if necessary) within the southern estuaries to fill in information gaps identified by the land management agencies (Everglades National Park (ENP) and Biscayne National Park (BNP)), and by the Southern Estuaries Subteam of the Regional Evaluation Team (RET) of RECOVER. 3) Work with our collaborators to plug all of the combined paleoecology data into linear regression models that can hindcast salinity for different parts of the system. Ultimately we hope to forecast these data in combination with the results from task 2, to give a picture of realistic CERP 2050 salinity targets.

Work to be undertaken during the proposal year and a description of the methods and procedures:

Work on refining salinity targets for Florida Bay utilizing Linear Regression Models developed by Dr. Frank Marshall (Cetacean Logic Foundation) coupled with paleoecologic data from USGS cores will continue. Two existing core sites (Rankin Lake core, plus one additional) will be incorporated into the model in FY09 to corroborate or modify the Whipray Basin-based hydrology and salinity condition estimates (FY08 work). The first step will be to improve or otherwise upgrade the existing system of models that were developed for evaluating the pre-drainage hydrology using the Whipray Basin sediment core. Then the improved models will be used to develop two additional estimates for the pre-drainage hydrology (stage and flow in the Everglades, salinity in Florida Bay) from the paleoecologic assemblage information at two core sites. The FY09 results will be assimilated with the previous FY08 work to develop a "consensus" pre-drainage hydrology regime for Florida Bay. Work also will continue on the molluscan calibration set and the application of the cumulative weighted percent (CWP) method to existing cores in Florida Bay and if time allows, in Biscayne Bay.

Specific Task Product(s):

  1. Journal Article on Rankin Basin Core - coupling paleoecologic results to Linear Regression Model - planned for mid FY09 - Wingard, Marshall and Hudley - authors.
  2. Journal article on molluscan salinity transfer function - planned for early to mid FY09 - Wingard and Hudley - authors.

Title of Task 2: Assessment of sea level rise in South Florida's estuaries
Task Funding: USGS Priority Ecosystems Science
Task Leaders: T.M. Cronin
Phone: 703-648-6363
FAX: 703-648-6953
Task Status (proposed or active): Active
Task priority: Medium
Time Frame for Task 2: FY07-FY2010
Task Personnel: T. Cronin, L. Wingard, J. Murray, R. Ortiz, C. Budet, M. Marot, and J. Hudley

Task Summary and Objectives:

The purpose of this task is to evaluate the role of sea level in determining salinity within south Florida's estuaries. Changes in sea level have dramatically changed south Florida's coastline over the last few millennia and will potentially have dramatic affects during the implementation of CERP, yet few modelers consider this variable. We will examine the historic changes in sea level, and using multiple data sets, will assess the projected rate of change. This information will be combined with the development of the salinity models in task 1, to determine the effect of sea level rise on salinity and determine how these data can be factored into salinity targets for CERP.

Work to be undertaken during the proposal year and a description of the methods and procedures: 

In FY09 we will begin to focus on the question of rates of sea level rise over the last 4000 years in southern Florida. Published data on sea level rise in south Florida will be compared to independent records on global sea level rise due to thermal expansion and ice budgets. The rates in south Florida will be evaluated within this context and reported rates of sea level compared. However, in order to do accurate comparisons, we will need to refine the chronostratigraphy of the data by obtaining a compilation of radiocarbon data on existing cores and basal peats. Samples will be selected from existing cores and submitted for radiocarbon analyses where needed. Material for stable isotopic analyses also will be picked from existing cores and submitted for analyses. Potential sites for additional cores related to the sea level question will be identified (for example on Cape Sable) and we will begin the process of obtaining permits. Detailed pollen analyses will be conducted on selected existing cores to examine vegetative responses that may be linked to increased salt-water incursion.

Specific Task Product(s):

Synthesis of data on sea level rise in south Florida, in form of report and/or journal article, plus presentations.



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