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Project Summary Sheet

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

Fiscal Year 2006 Study Summary Report

Study Title: A Spatially Explicit Decision Support System for Everglades Ecological Risk Assessment and Restoration
Study Start Date: 10/01/2002 Study End Date: 05/31/2006
Web Sites: ATLSS.ORG
Location (Subregions, Counties, Park or Refuge): Total System
Funding Source: USGS Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Science (GE PES) initiative
Principal Investigator(s): Leonard Pearlstine, University of Florida, IFAS, 3205 College Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314-7799 Phone: 954-577-6304 Fax: 954-475-4125 e-mail:
Frank Mazzotti, University of Florida, IFAS, 3205 College Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314-7799
Donald L. DeAngelis, Phone 305-284-1690, e-mail
Study Personnel: Zongbo Shang, Kevin Chartier, Gareth Mann
Supporting Organizations: USGS/BRD, NPS, ACE, EPA
Associated / Linked Studies: Related to ATLSS Program

Overview & Objective(s): The ATLSS Program is supporting collaboration with Dr. Leonard Pearlstine to take steps towards the development of a Decision Support System. This is to go beyond ad-hoc policy formulation to an analytical and computer-supported platform for effective management and policy-making. Using available data to make informed decisions and recognizing research gaps to future study in a tractable manner is non-trivial. Support methodologies that help authorities involved in ecological restoration sort out all the decision variables and parameters, problem solving heuristics, and appreciate the impacts of potential policy actions is critical to successful planning and management.

This project addresses 3 high priority CESI and restoration science objectives: 3007-19, Monitor the status of indicator species, their communities, and species of special concern for evaluation of Everglades restoration success; and 3070-8, Develop and implement methodologies and decision support tools that will permit effective and timely assessment of CERP projects on DOI natural resources, and evaluate impacts of invasive species and their control on ecosystem restoration.

This project will develop a spatially explicit decision support system (SDSS) using a modular architecture that allows rapid integration of models and interfaces to project areas. The SDSS will assist managers in assessing issues and alternatives for wildlife habitat response to restoration and invasive species control activities. Specific objectives in support of the goal include:

  • Habitat modeling of biodiversity (potential use of habitat by all native species, by guilds, and by species of special concern) and of indicator species (species most likely to respond to changes in the physical environment).
  • Invasive species control modeling for the non-native Lygodium sp.
  • Make data, images, simulation models and textual information readily accessible through an intuitive user interface.
  • Provide a decision model/interface for assistance in structuring the issues, designing and choosing among alternative actions, and resolving multiple, often conflicting, goals.
  • Facilitate adaptive management, depiction of uncertainty, and targeted monitoring.
  • Provide an adaptable, modular SDSS structure that allows incremental development, potential future interaction with other systems and various levels of sophistication.
  • Improve the effectiveness, thoroughness and documentation of decisions and the decision process.

Status: Methodologies and issues were explored in the first year. In year 2, two areas of study were selected: (1) decision aids to the Southwest Florida Feasibility Study (SWFFS) and C-43 CERP Project ecological evaluations and (2) a management interface for a Lygodium optimal control model. The decision modeling approaches have been selected and implemented for the coastal models in SWFFS/ C-43. The modeling interface for Lygodium is complete.

Recent Products: SWFFS/ C-43 Coastal: Technical assistance was provided to the Water Management District for development of decision support methods. Five ecological suitability models, Blue Crab, American Oyster, Spotted Sea Trout, Seagrass and Valisneria have been completed and incorporated as modules into a decision interface that is complete and now being used to perform comparisons of spatially-explicit species habitat suitability model runs against alternative Caloosahatchee River water release scenarios, examine the contribution of each input and obtain habitat units for decision models.

SWFFS Inland: Models are ready to receive test Mike-She hydrological inputs from USACOE.

Lygodium: A management interface for a Lygodium optimal control model has been completed.

Planned Products:

Models developed with assistance from this project are being implemented and will introduce products and protocols which can be migrated to other areas of South Florida restoration.

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:]:

This is a total system study that potentially supports information needs for all of the CERP activities that impact ecological communities. The decision aids and methodologies for decision-making are implicit in the DOI Science Plan which requires the gathered science to be integrated and applied to restoration. The ecological modeling, synthesis of science information, and application of decision aids specifically supports CERP as it (1) helps with prioritization of science resource allocations (p. 11); (2) helps decision-makers in establishing specific goals and objectives in the context of conflicting priorities and adaptive management (pp. 10,15 & 17); and (3) provides a systematic and documented procedure to evaluating alternatives for what actions will restore, protect, and manage natural resources on DOI lands in South Florida and what actions will recover South Florida's threatened and endangered species (p. 9).

In this year the study supports several of the projects listed in the DOI science plan (specifically: Southwest Florida Feasibility Study, C-43 Basin Storage Reservoir, and Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR Invasive Exotic Plant Management) by (a) developing models of habitat, biological diversity, and community ecological characteristics and (b) developing integrated assessment tools to support landscape level decision.

The study supports the Lower West Coast projects (SWFFS and C-43; p. 49) as it (1) provides assessment tools that are a critical priority for making landscape level restoration decisions that favor one species or trophic level over another or that maximize biodiversity with an ecological system (p. 49); spatially models the impacts of hydrologic targets on ecological conditions and the critical links between hydrology, water quality and ecological responses in southwest Florida (p. 50); (3) models how hydrologic and water quality targets relate to the landscape-scale assemblages of habitats needed to support the area's fish and wildlife resources and particularly, the wide-ranging species (p. 50); Geographic information system mapping for habitat database of hydrologic restoration contributions to listed species and the protection and enhancement of fish and wildlife value (p. 50); and aids in the identification of key indicator of the desired ecological responses (p. 51).

The study supports the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR Invasive Exotic Plant Management project (LNWR; p. 117) as it aids in selecting management methods to treat and prevent the spread of Lydodium (p. 117).

Key Findings:

  1. The Coastal GIS stress/response models and user interface that have been completed met the specific needs for habitat and ecological evaluation of Southwest Florida restoration actions.
  2. Improvements to the current habitat models and evaluations should proceed with the MAP adaptive assessment protocol using these models as the basis for field validation. Field studies should be designed to test the habitat and landscape feature relationships of species and community models.
  3. Existing decision support methods will provide the aid needed by policy-makers in selecting among alternative restoration plans, but one SDSS should not try to address every need. Developers need to continue working closely with agency scientist and decision-makers to tailor products to the resource questions.

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