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Project Summary Sheet

U.S. Geological Survey, Greater Everglades Science Initiative (Place-Based Studies)

Fiscal Year 2003 Project Summary Report

Project Title: Ecosystem History of the Southwest Coast-Shark River Slough Outflow Area

Project Start Date: 10/1/02 Project End Date: 9/30/07

Web Sites: No data online yet, but will be added to

Location: Everglades NP, Big Cypress Preserve, Ten Thousand Islands NWR. Monroe, Collier, and Lee Counties.

Funding Source: USGS's Greater Everglades Science Initiative (PBS)

Principal Investigator(s): G. Lynn Wingard

Project Personnel: T. Cronin, D. Willard, C. Holmes, W. Orem - USGS. G. Dwyer, Duke University. Potential additions for FY04 and beyond: M. Savarese, FGCU; P. Swart, UM; S. Ishman and Christopher Williams, Univ. Southern Illinois;

Supporting Organizations: South Florida Water Management District; Everglades National Park; Big Cypress Preserve

Associated / Linked Projects: Historical Changes in Salinity, Water Quality and Vegetation in Biscayne Bay; Monitoring Sub-Aquatic Vegetation through Remote Sensing: A pilot study in Florida Bay; Paleosalinity as a Key for Success Criteria in South Florida Restoration.

Overview & Objective(s): One of the primary goals of the Central Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is to restore the natural flow of water through the terrestrial Everglades and into the coastal zones. Historically, Shark River Slough, which flows through the central portion of the Everglades southwestward, was the primary flow path through the Everglades Ecosystem. However, this flow has been dramatically reduced over the last century as construction of canals, water conservation areas and the Tamiami Trail either retained or diverted flow from Shark River Slough. The reduction in flow and changes in water quality through Shark River have had a profound effect on the freshwater marshes and the associated coastal ecosystems. Additionally, the flow reduction may have shifted the balance of fresh to salt-water inflow along coastal zones, resulting in an acceleration of the rate of inland migration of mangroves into the freshwater marshes. The objectives of this project are to document impacts of changes in salinity, water quality, coastal plant and animal communities and other critical ecosystem parameters on a subdecadal-centennial scale in the southwest coastal region (from Whitewater Bay, north to the 10,000 Islands), and to correlate these changes with natural events and resource management practices. Emphasis will be placed on 1) determining the amount, timing and sources of freshwater influx (groundwater vs. runoff) into the coastal ecosystem prior to and since significant anthropogenic alteration of flow; and 2) determining whether the rate of mangrove and brackish marsh migration inland has increased since 20th century water diversion and what role sealevel rise might play in the migration.

Status: Only preliminary reconnaissance, background research, and organization meetings have been conducted in FY03.

Recent & Planned Products: No products have been produced to date. As field work begins, regular reports will be generated, talks for meetings and clients, journal articles, and outreach factsheets.

Relevance to Greater Everglades Restoration Information Needs: "Getting the water right" is one of the primary restoration goals identified by the South Florida Restoration Task Force. By understanding the historical patterns of flow through the Shark and Caloosahatchee River systems into the southwest coastal areas, the CERP projects can set more accurate performance measures that take long term variability, climate change and sea level rise into account. Minimum flows and levels in the managed system can be set to more natural targets. In addition to CERP goals, the USGS Science Plan for south Florida has identified five primary science objectives (SO) to address the needs of restoration and this project meets 3 of those objectives for the southwest coastal areas: SO2, determine the historical setting of the greater Everglades ecosystem; SO3, establish baselines and variations for restoration targets; SO5, predict ecosystem response to anthropogenic and natural change. This project fulfills these objectives by providing information on natural patterns of change in salinity, water quality, vegetation, and benthic fauna in the southwest estuaries and the nearby wetlands over the last 100-500 years. Data on historical patterns of change over centennial and decadal time scales allows CERP project managers to set realistic restoration targets that take natural patterns of change into consideration, and provides predictive capabilities on how the system will respond to future changes.

Key Findings: No significant findings to date - project is only in start up phase and has only had funding for 30 days.

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