USGS - science for a changing world

South Florida Information Access (SOFIA)

projects > creation of a digital archive of historical aerial photographs for everglades national park & the greater everglades ecosystem > project summary

Project Summary Sheet

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

Fiscal Year 2004 Study Summary Report

Study Title: Creation of a Digital Archive of Historical Aerial Photographs for Everglades National Park & the Greater Everglades Ecosystem
Study Start Date: 1 July 2002 Study End Date: 30 June 2007
Web Sites:
Location (Subregions, Counties, Park or Refuge): Lake Okeechobee, Loxahatchee NWR, 10,000 Islands NWR, Key Deer NWR, Great White Heron NWR, Crocodile Lakes NWR, Biscayne NP, Everglades NP, Big Cypress NP, WCA1-3, all counties south of Lake Okeechobee, southwest Florida, southeast Florida
Funding Source: USGS: Greater Everglades Science Initiative (PES)
Principal Investigator(s): T.J. Smith and A.M. Foster
Study Personnel: A.W. Coffin and K.M. Capobianco
Supporting Organizations: South Florida Water Management District, US Army Corps of Engineers
Associated / Linked Studies:
"Everglades Restoration"
"Vegetation & Hydrology of Land-Margin Ecosystems in south Florida"
"Understanding and Predicting Global Climate Change Impacts on the Vegetation and Fauna of Mangrove Forested Ecosystems in Florida"
"TIME - Tides and Inflows to the Mangroves of the Everglades"
"Landscape models for the mangrove forests of the Everglades"

Overview & Objective(s): A foundation for the Everglade's restoration must include a clear understanding of the pre-drainage south Florida landscape. Knowledge of the spatial organization and structure of pre-drainage landscape communities such as mangrove forests, marshes, sloughs, wet prairies, and pinelands, is essential to provide potential endpoints, restoration goals and performance measures to gauge restoration success. Information contained in historical aerial photographs of the Everglades can aid in this endeavor. The earliest known aerial photographs, from the mid to late 1920s, and resulted in the production of T-Sheets (Topographic Sheets) for the coasts and shorelines of south Florida. The T-Sheets are remarkably detailed, delineating features such as, shorelines, ponds, and waterways, in addition to the position of the boundary between differing vegetation communities. If followed through time changes in the position of these ecotones could potentially be used to judge effects of changes in the landscape of the Everglades ecosystem, providing a standard by which restoration success can be ascertained. The value of translating Everglades aerial photography into digital format and the development of a standardized online accessible database of geospatial imagery is great. Investigators from all four USGS Divisions, the National Park Service, the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Coastal Everglades LTER program have all expressed interest in such a collection when the initial concept was proposed.

Status: This project operates on funds as they become available.

Recent & Planned Products:
Briere, P.R., T.J. Smith III, A.M. Foster, A.W. Coffin, K. Rutchey, J.W. Jones, C. Van Arsdall, & W.B. Perry. Development of digital Aerial photography archives for the greater Everglades of south Florida. Pp. 225-226 In: Best, G.R. 2003. U.S. Geological Survey Greater Everglades Science Program: 2002 Biennial Report. USGS Open-File Report 03-54.

Coffin, A.W., H. Henkel, H. Mounts, P.R. Briere, A.M. Foster, T.J. Smith III & R.R. Wertz. Creation of a geodatabase of the digital photography archives for the Greater Everglades of south Florida and the Southern and Inland Coastal System. Pp. 227-228. In: Best, G.R. 2003. U.S. Geological Survey Greater Everglades Science Program: 2002 Biennial Report. USGS Open-File Report 03-54.

Smith, T.J. III, A.M. Foster, P.R. Briere, J.W. Jones & C. Van Arsdall. 2002. Conversion of historical topographic sheets (T-sheets) to digital form: Florida Everglades and vicinity. USGS, Open-File Report 02-204. CD-ROM (Available from the project website:

Smith, T.J., III, A.M. Foster, P.R. Briere, A.W. Coffin, J.W. Jones & C. Van Arsdall. 2003. Historical aerial photography for the Greater Everglades of south Florida: The 1940, 1:40,000 photoset. USGS, Open-File Report 02-327. DVD.

Planned: Rectified set of 1940 aerial photography; 1 Dissertation utilizing the products from this project.

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 various data layers produced by this project will be used by CERP teams in every region of the greater Everglades. As the different photosets get scanned they will be turned into GIS layers that can be used as tools by the CERP teams as individual projects get planned and implemented. The SFWMD expressed interest in using our products to help define performance measures for the ridge and slough province of the Everglades and for mapping the “white zone” in the area of the C-111 spreader canal. These are but two examples of how products from this project will aid and assist CERP.

Key Findings:

  1. CERP is using a vegetation map from 1940 as the “base-line” for restoration. Our results indicate that vegetation communities in the coastal Everglades underwent major changes between 1927 and 1940. So the “base-line” is not necessarily correct.
  2. Not all changes in vegetation are related to altered hydrology, some appear more closely tied to sea level rise or catastrophic, large-scale disturbance from hurricanes.

| Disclaimer | Privacy Statement | Accessibility |

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
This page is:
Comments and suggestions? Contact: Heather Henkel - Webmaster
Last updated: 04 September, 2013 @ 02:08 PM(TJE)