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Project Summary Sheet

U.S. Geological Survey, Greater Everglades Science Program: Place-Based Studies

Fiscal Year 2002 Project Summary Sheet

Project: Ecological Risk Assessment of Toxic Substances in the South Florida Ecosystem: Wildlife Effects and Exposure Assessment

Web Sites: http://sofia.usgs.gov/

Location (Subregions & Counties): South Florida, Miami-Dade County, ENP, WCA’s, Loxahatchie, Big Cypress, STA’s

Funding (Source): USGS Place-Based Studies (also see related projects)

Principal Investigator(s): Timothy S. Gross Tim_s_gross@usgs.gov, 352-378-8181 (323)

Project Personnel: Marisol Sepulveda, Jon Wiebe, Carla Wieser, D. Shane Ruessler, Nicola Kernaghan, Beverly Arnold

Supporting Organizations: University of Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Associated / Linked Projects: Evaluation of infertile alligator eggs and contaminant effects in the South Florida ecosystem (T.S. Gross and K. Rice), Amphibian exposures to atrazine and metamorphic effects in South Florida ecosystems (T.S. Gross and M. Sepulveda), Microcosm and Mesocosm evaluations of OC bioaccumulations in wildlife: development of models for restoration of agricultural properties as wetlands (T.S Gross and St. Johns River Water Management District).

Overview & Status: The primary goal of this project is to assess both the current wildlife contaminant exposures, as well as predict and monitor future restoration-driven exposures. These efforts require a complete food-chain analysis of exposures for biota at all trophic levels, as well as the preliminary monitoring of non-lethal, physiological, effects at multiple levels of biological organization (biochemical to whole animal). We have conducted a survey of freshwater mussels across 32 sites, alligators across 14 sites, and largemouth bass and sunfish for 42 sites. Efforts are now in progress and/or planned for amphibians at 12 sites and wading birds (i.e. great egrets) at 5 sites. Efforts have indicated a severe decline in freshwater mussels across sites, especially those with significant habitat alteration/restoration. Altered health status and depressed reproductive/endocrine function is also associated with agricultural exposures and exposure to mercury. Alligator tissues are complete for OC and target contaminant analyses; however, analyses of non-classic/non-target compounds such as pharmaceuticals etc are currently underway. These causes significant exposures for alligators in WCA’s and other restored/reclaimed sites, as well as exposure to historic and current use agricultural and urban-runoff chemical contaminants. Fish samples have been collected from an extensive collection of sites during the non-reproductive season and analyses are in progress. Initial analyses suggest significant exposures and significant distribution differences across S. Florida ecosystems. Fish efforts have been in collaboration with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the South Florida Water Management District. Amphibian surveys and collections are currently underway and will be ongoing through Spring 2003. These efforts are in collaboration with Ken Rice and with the University of Florida-IFAS and Syngenta, Corp. Initial efforts to identify colonies of wading birds are underway and collections will occur during 2003-2004.

Needs & Products: To assess whether chemical contaminants/stressors in South Florida harm wildlife and to evaluate or predict future restoration driven processes and alterations in the distribution, fate and transport or effects of environmental contaminants, we must first complete the proposed assessment of contaminant distribution across trophic levels. These efforts are underway, however, the budget was greatly reduced from original estimates and progress each year is limited. Additional funds for timely completion and for analysis of non-target chemical contaminants are needed. The current proposed expansion of efforts to include the WRD Ocala Water Quality Laboratory will assist in these needs, but greater program support will be needed to attain the long term goals of risk assessment predictive evaluation of restoration-driven processes, and a thorough evaluation of non-lethal effects. Abstracts, reports, and manuscripts are planned for 2002-05

Application to Everglades Restoration: The results of this study will be critical to a ecological risk assessment of current contaminant related processes and effects, as well as for the prediction of future restoration-driven effects and alterations. The results thus far, demonstrate significant and varying exposure across sites and exposures, which will likely be impacted by restoration processes. In addition, non-lethal, physiological effects are evident and will likely be altered by restoration efforts as well. These results are critical to an eco-risk assessment and to our ability to assess, evaluate and predict restoration-driven effects and should be useful in the development of strategies for minimizing adverse effects of restoration process. 

Study Milestones
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Familiarity         xxxx xxxx          
Design         xxxx xxxx xxxx oooo      
Field Work         xxxx xxxx xxxx xxoo oooo oooo oo
Data Analysis           xxx xxxx xooo oooo oooo oooo
Initial Reporting             x xxoo oooo    
Quality Assurance               xxoo oooo oooo  
Results Published               xoo oooo oooo oooo
Synthesis                 oooo oooo oooo
Note: "x" indicates task completed during quarter, and "o" indicates task planned, but not completed


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