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Project Work Plan

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

Fiscal Year 2006 Study Work Plan

Study Title: Synthesis of South Florida Ecosystem History Research
Study Start Date: 10/1/05 Study End Date: 9/30/07
Web Sites: http://sofia.usgs.gov/projects/synth_ecohis/
Location (Subregions, Counties, Park or Refuge): Loxahatchee NWR, WCA 2, 3, Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne Bay National Park, Ten Thousand Islands NWR.
Funding Source: USGS Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Science (GE PES)
Other Complementary Funding Source(s): None
Funding History: FY05; FY06
Principal Investigator(s): Debra A. Willard, G. Lynn Wingard
Study Personnel: D. Willard, L. Wingard, C. Holmes, USGS, and J. Hudley, contractor. Indirectly through related projects: T. Cronin, and W. Orem
Supporting Organizations: South Florida Water Management District, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Loxahatchee NWR, Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne Bay National Park, Ten Thousand Islands NWR
Associated / Linked Studies: Interrelation of Everglades Hydrology and Florida Bay Dynamics (Ecology Component), Tides and Inflows in the Mangrove Ecotone (TIME) Model Development, Ecosystem History of the Southwest Coast-Shark River Slough Outflow Area, Paleosalinity as a Key for Success Criteria in South Florida Restoration (ended in FY05), Historical Changes in Salinity, Water Quality and Vegetation in Biscayne Bay

Overview & Objectives: Everglades restoration planning requires an understanding of the impact of natural and human-induced environmental change in shaping the current ecosystem. Recent and ongoing research in the wetlands and estuaries is documenting biotic responses to specific environmental changes in specific parts of the greater Everglades ecosystem (tree islands, sawgrass ridges, sloughs, marl prairies, mangroves) and throughout Florida and Biscayne Bays. Data generated in these studies are being evaluated in the context of possible restoration strategies to improve prediction of future ecosystem response. This new study is intended to synthesize all data generated to date on the history of the Greater Everglades ecosystem and the response of various components to climatic and anthropogenically derived change.

Specific Relevance to Major Unanswered Questions and Information Needs Identified: (Page numbers below refer to DOI Science Plan.)

One of the primary activities discussed in the DOI Science Plan is to “ensure that hydrologic performance targets accurately reflect the natural predrainage hydrology and ecology” (DOI Science Plan, p. 14). The Synthesis of ecosystem history data from the wetlands and estuaries of South Florida will provide the necessary data to achieve this goal.

Task 1 of this study supports several of the projects listed in the DOI science plan (specifically: Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR Internal Canal Structures; Water Conservation Area 3 Decompartmentalization and Sheetflow Enhancement; and Combined Structural and Operational Plan) by (a) documenting the timing of tree-island formation across the region; (b) establishes patterns of vegetation development and geochemical changes on the islands; (c) comparing development of different types of tree islands; (d) developing a model of tree-island formation that may be used in restoration of degraded islands and, possibly, creation of new islands; and (e) determining the duration of flooding or drought that tree islands can tolerate before changes in aerial extent occur.

The study supports the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR Internal Canal Structures project (LNWR; p. 39) as it (1) provides data about historic hydrologic and ecological conditions on the refuge (p. 40) and (2) helps understand the ecological effects of hydrology and water quality on refuge resources (p. 40) The study supports the Water Conservation Area 3 Decompartmentalization and Sheetflow Enhancement project (DECOMP; p. 66) as it (1) helps understand the linkages among the geologic, hydrologic, chemical, and biological processes that shaped the predrainage Everglades (p. 68); (2) helps understand the critical factors for sustaining tree islands, ridge and slough habitats, and marl prairies (p. 68); and (3) helps understand the effects of different hydrologic regimes and ecological processes on restoring and maintaining ecosystem function (p. 69).

This study supports the Combined Structural and Operational Plan project (CSOP and Mod Waters; p. 70) as it (1) generates information that will improve ecological models and make them more suitable for application of the Natural Systems Model (p. 71).

Task 2 of this study supports the Florida Bay and Florida Keys Feasibility Study Project, the Additional Water for Everglades National Park and Biscayne Bay Feasibility Study Project, the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project, the Southern Golden Gate Estates Hydrologic Restoration, and the Southwest Feasibility Study Projects, and it provides information relevant to the Combined Structural and Operational Plan (CSOP) and Landscape Modeling projects. This study supports these projects by 1) synthesizing research to understand the predrainage hydrology, including the amount, timing and seasonality of freshwater delivered to the estuaries of south Florida historically; 2) examining the historical environmental conditions, including the linkage between hydrology (water quality and quantity), ecology, and habitats; 3) providing the modelers with data on historic conditions in order to set targets and performance measures that reflect natural hydrologic patterns; 4) providing long-term historical data on trends and cycles within the biological component of the ecosystem that can be forecasted to predict the effects of implementation of hydrologic restoration on the ecology of coastal communities.

This study supports the Florida Bay and Florida Keys Feasibility Study Project by addressing the questions 1) What are the links between impediment to circulation created by the causeway and the ecology of Florida Bay . . .?” (DOI Science Plan, p. 64), “What are the links between freshwater inflows to Florida Bay and the ecology of the bay?” (p. 65), and “What is the ecological response to hydrologic change?” (p. 66).

This study supports the Additional Water for Everglades National Park and Biscayne Bay Feasibility Study by addressing the questions “What were the physical and ecological conditions in Shark River and Taylor Sloughs and Biscayne Bay prior to drainage and modification . . .” (DOI Plan p. 63), “What are the hydrologic targets needed to mimic historic flows . . . ? (p. 63).

This study supports the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project by addressing the questions “How much freshwater, and in what seasonal patterns, was delivered historically to Biscayne Bay?” (DOI Plan, p. 63), “What are the links between hydrology and ecology in the Biscayne Bay coastal wetlands?” (p. 64), and “What are the key indicators of natural ecological response . . .” and “what are the baseline conditions of the indicators?” (p. 66). The data generated by this study are particularly valuable because they provide 100 to 500 years worth of data on changes to the system.

This study supports the Southern Golden Gate Estates Hydrologic Restoration Project by providing long-term (100-500 years) data on natural hydrologic patterns that can be used to set targets for freshwater inflows (p. 50). In addition, information on long-term changes in the biota and ongoing studies to develop our modern proxy database (used for core interpretation) will provide baseline data on the ecological responses of communities and species (p. 51).

This study supports the Southwest Feasibility Study Project by providing predrainage hydrologic and ecologic conditions that can be used to set the hydrologic targets (p. 50). The results of the core analyses will provide data on temporal and spatial patterns within the estuaries and the linkage between hydrologic conditions and ecological responses; this information can be used by the modelers (p. 50) and to determine what faunal or floral species might be used as key indicators (p. 51).

In addition, the study contributes to the Combined Structural and Operational Plan (CSOP) and Landscape Modeling projects by providing historical ecological data on trends and cycles that can be forecasted to predict the effects of implementation of hydrologic restoration on the ecology of coastal communities. This addresses questions of the impact of increased flow (p. 63), and expected faunal and floral responses (p. 64, p. 79, p. 80).

Status: FY05 efforts have been focused on compiling data, standardizing data formats, identifying and filling information gaps and determining analytical approaches for analyses.

Recent Products:
A presentation was given to the Southern Estuaries Sub-Team of the RECOVER Regional Evaluation Team (June 2005), summarizing the current status of our knowledge on the Estuaries.

No written products specific to this study have been produced to date, but the following products linked to ecosystem history studies will be incorporated into the synthesis:

Willard, D.A., Holmes, C.W., Korvela, M.S., Mason, D., Murray, J.B., Orem, W.H., and Towles, D.T., 2002. Paleoecological insights on fixed tree island development in the Florida Everglades: I. Environmental Controls. In Sklar, F.H., and van der Valk, A. (Eds.), Tree Islands of the Everglades: 117-152.

Orem, W.H., Willard, D.A., Werch, H.E., Bates, A.L., Boylan, A., and Corum, M., 2002. Nutrient geochemistry of sediments from two tree islands in Water Conservation Area 3B, the Everglades, Florida. In Sklar, F.H., and van der Valk, A. (Eds.), Tree Islands of the Everglades: 153-186.

Willard, D.A. and Orem, W.H. 2003. Tree-Islands of the Florida Everglades - A Disappearing Resource. U.S. Geological Survey Open-file Report 03-26: 2 pp.

Bernhardt, C.E., Willard, D.A., and Holmes, C.W., 2003. Development and Stability of the Everglades Ridge and Slough Landscape. U.S. Geological Survey Open-file Report 03-54: 128.

Wingard, G.L., Cronin, T.M., Dwyer, G.S., Ishman, S.E., Willard, D.A., Holmes, C.W., Bernhardt, C.E., Williams, C.P., Marot, M.E., Murray, J.B., Stamm, R.G., Murray, J.H., and Budet, C., 2003, Ecosystem history of southern and central Biscayne Bay; Summary report on sediment core analyses: U.S. Geological Survey, Open-File Report 03-375, 110 p.

Willard, D.A., 2004. Tree Islands of the Florida Everglades Long-term Stability and Response to Hydrologic Change. U.S. Geological Survey Open-file Report 2004-3095: 4 pp.

Wingard, G.L., (with contributions by T.M. Cronin and W. Orem), Ecosystem History, chapter 3 of Nuttle, W. and Hunt, J., (eds.), Synthesis Report to Florida Bay Program Management Committee, Status of Florida Bay Research, Florida Marine Research Institute Bulletin, 58 msp., 3 figs. [Director's approval 12/30/2003]

Wingard, G.L., Cronin, T.M., Holmes, C.W., Willard, D.A., Dwyer, G.S., Ishman, S.E., Orem, W., Williams, C.P., Albietz, J., Bernhardt, C.E., Budet, C., Landacre, B., Lerch, T., Marot, M.E., and Ortiz, R., 2004, Ecosystem history of southern and central Biscayne Bay; Summary report on sediment core analyses - Year two: U.S. Geological Survey, Open-File Report 2004-1312, 101 msp.

Planned Products:

Synthesis papers incorporating summaries of research on South Florida ecosystem history and addressing DOI Science Plan goals as listed above.

WORK PLAN
Title of Task 1: Synthesis - Response of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem to Climatic and Anthropogenic Change
Task Funding: USGS Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Science (GE PES)
Task Leaders: Debra A. Willard
Phone: 703-648-5320; 703-648-6273
FAX: 703-648-6953
Task Status (proposed or active): Proposed
Task priority: High
Time Frame for Task 1: FY05; FY06; completion in FY07
Task Personnel: C. Bernhardt, W. Orem
Task Summary and Objectives: Everglades restoration planning requires an understanding the impact of natural and human-induced environmental change on wetland stability. This task aims to synthesize results from ongoing and previous research on Everglades ecosystem history to determine the response of different wetland plant communities to specific environmental and hydrologic changes. These data will provide a guide to predict wetland community response to future modifications of Everglades hydrology.

Work to be undertaken during the proposal year and a description of the methods and procedures:
The study supports the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR Internal Canal Structures project (LNWR; p. 39) as it (1) provides data about historic hydrologic and ecological conditions on the refuge (p. 40) and (2) helps understand the ecological effects of hydrology and water quality on refuge resources (p. 40). It also supports the Water Conservation Area 3 Decompartmentalization and Sheetflow Enhancement project (DECOMP; p. 66) as it (1) helps understand the linkages among the geologic, hydrologic, chemical, and biological processes that shaped the predrainage Everglades (p. 68); (2) helps understand the critical factors for sustaining tree islands, ridge and slough habitats, and marl prairies (p. 68); and (3) helps understand the effects of different hydrologic regimes and ecological processes on restoring and maintaining ecosystem function (p. 69). In FY05, we will begin compiling results from non-USGS research for integration with ongoing USGS research.

Specific Task Products:
Synthesis papers incorporating summaries of research on South Florida ecosystem history and addressing DOI Science Plan goals as listed above.

Title of Task 2: Synthesis - Natural Variation and Anthropogenic Alteration of South Florida's estuaries
Task Funding: USGS Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Science (GE PES)
Task Leaders: G. Lynn Wingard
Phone: 703-648-5352
FAX: 703-648-6953
Task Status (proposed or active): Proposed
Task priority: High
Time Frame for Task 1: FY05; FY06. Completion in FY07
Task Personnel: T. Cronin; J. Hudley
Task Summary and Objectives: One of the primary restoration goals identified by the South Florida Restoration Task Force is to “get the water right.” The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) has specifically identified the importance of understanding freshwater flow into south Florida's estuaries, and the changes incurred in the estuaries due to alterations in freshwater flow. The primary objective of this study is to synthesize data and results from previous and ongoing research on the natural and anthropogenic-induced changes that have occurred in south Florida's estuaries. Compilation of results from different estuarine systems will allow comparison of regional versus local-scale impacts. Synthesis results can be used 1) to predict future ecosystem response to restoration-induced changes; 2) to account for the component of historical change that is due to natural effects; and 3) set realistic targets and performance measures for restoration.

Work to be undertaken during the proposal year and a description of the methods and procedures: The first step was to compile all existing ecosystem history data and all relevant data sets on components of the system (such as precipitation, salinity, etc.), place these data into a relational database, and into a consistent format. In some cases this has involved data reduction (for example, water outflow data and salinity data from monitoring stations are available as hourly data sets - a scale too fine for our purposes). The majority of step one was completed in FY05. In FY06 compilation will be completed and we will determine statistical methodology to be used. We will proceed with analyses of these data by synthesizing and comparing small sub-sets of the data to test different statistical techniques and progressing to larger sets. Numerous types of comparisons at different levels within the system will be analyzed, and we will work with hydrologic and Natural Systems modelers where possible.

Specific Task Products:

Synthesis papers incorporating summaries of research on South Florida ecosystem history and addressing DOI Science Plan goals as listed above.



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