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Project Summary Sheet

U.S. Geological Survey, Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Science (PES) Initiative

Fiscal Year 2004 Study Summary Report

Study Title: Development of Selected Model Components of an Across-Trophic-Level System Simulation (ATLSS) for the Wetland Systems of South Florida
Study Start Date: 1997 Study End Date: 04/30/2006
Web Sites: ATLSS.ORG
Location: The Greater Everglades ecosystem
Funding Source: ENP Critical Ecosystems Studies Initiative and USGS Priority Ecosystems Science Initiative
Principal Investigator(s): Louis J. Gross, The Institute for Environmental Modeling (TIEM), University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-1610 Phone: 865-974-4295 e-mail:
Study Personnel: Donald L. DeAngelis, Phone: 305-284-1690 e-mail:
Other Supporting Organizations: USGS Place-Based Funding, NPS, ACE, EPA
Associated Projects: Component of ATLSS Program, SFWMD Hydrology and Environmental Modeling; USGS National Wetlands Research Center

Overview & Objective(s): The ongoing goals in this project have been the following. 1) As part of the ATLSS Program combine biological and physical models using multiple approaches, including trophic system components at differing spatial and temporal scales, to estimate landscape-level responses of biotic systems to environmental changes. 2) Produce models capable of using detailed behavioral and physiological data and dynamically linking these with spatially-explicit abiotic information. 3) Produce models capable of generating testable hypotheses about trophic component responses to alternative possible anthropogenic influences. ATLSS provides a mechanism to evaluate the relative impacts of alternative hydrologic scenarios on various trophic components. The methodology to integrate components involves: 1) a landscape structure for dynamic communication between models; 2) a high resolution topography to estimate high resolution water depth across the landscape; and, 3) a variety of visualization tools to aid model development, validation, and comparison to field data.

Status: Current CESI funding has been extended to 03/31/2005. Additional CESI funding will be added after that.

Recent Progress: Progress is being made on testing the reliability of ATLSS's Spatially Explicit Species Index (SESI) models by comparing year-to-year trends in SESI outputs with year-to-year trends in empirical data. An example of such comparisons is the Cape Sable sparrow population for a given sub-region, the 'western subpopulation,' of its range. Data are available for 1981 and the period 1992-present. Because the SESI model produces values that are on the interval 0 to 1, in order to compare SESI model trends with population data, the SESI values must first be normalized to the population data. When this is done the SESI index does seem to track population values over most of the period from 1992 to 2002. The ATLSS vegetation succession model (VSMod) has been developed, which is designed to estimate changes in vegetation distribution in the Everglades resulting from changes in hydrology, fire disturbance and nutrient levels. The model covers most of the natural areas of south Florida including the three water conservation areas, Everglades National Park (ENP) and Big Cypress National Preserve (BCNP). To make possible direct access to ATLSS model results for natural resource managers, a new ecosystem modeling service suite has been developed. The ecosystem modeling service suite allows natural resource managers in South Florida to remotely launch ecosystem modeling tasks on, and harvest model results from, a high performance computing grid at the University of Tennessee with the use of minimal local resources. A paper on Florida panther habitat has been published.

Planned Products: ATLSS has been requested to provide model output to DOI and other agencies for CSOP. This will be done through the ATLSS User Interface. Continuing work will be done on testing and upgrading the SESI and other ATLSS models. The vegetation model (VSMod) will be tested and integrated into the SESI models. Continuing improvements will be made to the estuarine fish model, in collaboration with Jerry Lorenz and Eric Swain, to develop this into a model that can be used in scenario assessments.

Specific Relevance to Information Needs Identified in DOI's Science Plan in Support of Ecosystem Restoration, Preservation, and Protection in South Florida (DOI's Everglades Science Plan) [See Plan on SOFIA's Web site:]: The ATLSS project links detailed biotic models with spatially-explicit abiotic data at regional extents, in order to provide a scientifically-defensible basis for regional planning that accounts for the complexity of biotic responses from individual-organism levels to that of communities (p. 79). ATLSS models were applied extensively in analyzing Restudy and Mod Water plans. ATLSS products are requested regularly by various agencies in South Florida including the South Florida Water Management District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Everglades National Park.

Key Findings:

  1. Version 1.0 of Everglades vegetation succession model (VSMod 1.0)
  2. Creation of ATLSS High-Resolution Multi-data source Topography (HMDT)
  3. Publication of paper on Florida panther habitat: Comiskey, E. J., A. C. Eller, Jr., and D. W. Perkins. 2004. Evaluating impacts to Florida panther habitat: How porous is the umbrella? Southeastern Naturalist 3(1):51-74.

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