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projects > impacts of hydrologic and climatic change on greater everglades marl prairies, marshes, and sloughs > work plan

Project Work Plan

Department of Interior USGS GE PES

Fiscal Year 2008 Study Work Plan

Study Title: Impacts of Hydrologic and Climatic Change on Greater Everglades Marl Prairies, Marshes, and Sloughs
Study Start Date: 10/1/2006 Study End Date: 9/30/2012
Web Sites: http://sofia.usgs.gov/projects/index.php?project_url=tree_islands
Location (Subregions, Counties, Park or Refuge): Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, A.R.M. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Water Conservation Areas 2 and 3
Funding Source: GE PES
Other Complementary Funding Source(s): None at this time
Funding History: FY07; FY08, FY09; FY10, FY11.
Principal Investigator(s): Debra A. Willard
Study Personnel: C. Bernhardt, B. Landacre, M. Marot, T. Sheehan
Supporting Organizations: South Florida Water Management District; Everglades National Park; A.R.M. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Big Cypress National Preserve, US Fish & Wildlife Service.
Associated / Linked Studies: Development and Stability of Everglades Tree Islands, Ridge and Slough, and Marl Prairies (ended 2006); Synthesis of South Florida Ecosystem History Research (ended in FY07); Sea Level Rise and Climate Change - Impacts on the Greater Everglades Ecosystem and Restoration.

Overview & Objective(s): The initial objective of this project is reconstruction of marl prairie vegetation and hydroperiod for the last few centuries to evaluate impacts of climate variability and anthropogenic alteration of hydrology on this critical habitat. This research builds upon previous work throughout the Greater Everglades wetland that documents responses of tree islands and the ridge and slough landscape to natural and anthropogenic hydrologic change (completed 2007). This task requires: 1) multi-proxy analyses (pollen, charcoal, carbon isotopes, geochronology) of sediment cores from marl prairie habitats; and 2) refinements to the existing Everglades pollen calibration dataset by collecting and analyzing surface samples along vegetation transects established by M. Ross and colleagues at Florida International University.

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

The importance and application of ecosystem history research to restoration goals has been identified in the DOI Science Plan in Support of Ecosystem Restoration, Preservation, and Protection in South Florida, the USGS Science Plan for south Florida, and the Everglades Multi-Species Avian Ecology and Restoration Review. The DOI Science Plan lists the need to "ensure that hydrologic performance targets accurately reflect the natural predrainage hydrology and ecology" as one of its three primary science goals (DOI Science Plan 2005, p. 16). The USGS Science Plan for south Florida (2007 draft, p. 7) identifies five primary science goals, the second of which is to "determine the historical ecological setting of the Everglades." The Everglades Multi-Species Avian Ecology and Restoration Review recognized the value of paleoecological research in understanding patterns and causes of historical vegetation changes and recommended continued research to synthesize and integrate results from previous and ongoing paleoecological studies to inform restoration planning (SEI, 2007, p. 22). The overall goal of this project, and related previous ecosystem history projects, is to document the predrainage distribution of vegetation and reconstruct paleohydrology of marl prairies, marshes, and sloughs of south Florida, in response to client groups that have been tasked with setting performance measures and targets for these key wetland habitats.

The immediate goals of this project are to develop a spatially complete reconstruction of the vegetation and hydrologic history of Everglades marl prairie habitats, to determine the timing of initial marl accumulation, and to improve our understanding of the patterns and causes of historical vegetation change. These data will be critical to improve forecasts of marl prairie response to different restoration scenarios. In subsequent years, we hope to synthesize data from wetland habitats throughout the Everglades and reconstruct vegetation and hydrology for specific time slices (i.e., predrainage Everglades (~AD 1850), early 20th century (~AD 1940), and post-C&SF Project (~AD 1960-1970). These data are needed to validate model estimates of predrainage hydrology and to verify impacts of different hydrologic changes on a range of wetland habitats.

A number of specific "major unanswered questions" listed in the DOI Science Plan can be answered by this research. These include the following:

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR Internal Canal Structures
1) "What hydrologic targets will restore the natural predrainage hydrology?" (DOI Science Plan, p. 42)

2) "What is the ecological response to hydrologic change?" (DOI Science Plan, p. 42).

Water Conservation Area 3 Decompartmentalization and Sheetflow Enhancement
3) "What were the physical and ecological conditions in the Greater Everglades prior to drainage and modification, including physical, chemical, and biological processes responsible for development and persistence of soils and geomorphological patterns in the historical Everglades landscape" (DOI Science Plan, p. 71)
Additional Water for Everglades National Park and Biscayne Bay Feasibility Study
4) "What were the physical and ecological conditions in Shark River and Taylor Sloughs and Biscayne Bayprior to drainage and modification, including historic hydrologic, geologic, ecological, and water quality conditions?" (DOI Science Plan, p. 71).
Landscape-Scale Modeling
5) "What are the physical conditions in the Greater Everglades prior to drainage...?" (DOI Plan, p. 92)
Recovery of Vegetative Communities and Multiple Animal Species
6) "How do we optimize the benefits of restoration for protected avian species in South Florida while minimizing tradeoffs caused by conflicting habitat needs?" (DOI Plan, p. 110)

This study supports these CERP projects by 1) conducting research to reconstruct past vegetation and hydrology and understand relative impacts of natural climate variability and human alteration of hydrology on critical habitats; 2) determining the primary external drivers of habitat formation and degradation; 3) providing modelers with data on historic/predrainage conditions to validate model estimates of predrainage hydrology; and 4) providing a predrainage land-cover dataset for use in a range of climate and hydrologic models.

Specific Relevance to USGS Mission:

This project is directly related to two science directions in the USGS Science Strategy (USGS Circ. 1309): 1) Understanding Ecosystems and Predicting Ecosystem Change and 2) Climate Variability and Change. We are investigating the causes and consequences of ecological change over long timescales to understand impacts of natural and anthropogenic changes on the habitats throughout the greater Everglades ecosystem. These techniques are applicable to wetland and other terrestrial habitats throughout the world. This research is aimed at understanding the interactions between biological and nonbiological components of the ecosystem and evaluating consequences of environmental change for different components of the ecosystem. We use results from this research to inform land managers and policy makers on likely response of the greater Everglades wetland to different management and climate scenarios. This investigation contributes to the Climate Variability and Change direction by reconstructing late Holocene climate paleohistory and climate-related ecological, biological, and physical responses. These provide a baseline level of variability for habitats within the ecosystem and provide a basis to forecast impacts of future climate changes on this wetland ecosystem.

Status: During FY07, we identified sample sites for sediment coring in six subpopulations of the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow (CSSS). Site selection was undertaken in consultation with ecologists at Everglades National Park and was designed to maximize areal coverage and targeted sites from existing vegetation transects maintained by M. Ross and colleagues at Florida International University. Coring is planned for FY08 after issuance of a sampling permit by Everglades National Park.

Recent Products:

  1. Bernhardt, C.E. and Willard, D.A., 2006. Marl prairie vegetation response to 20th century hydrologic change. U.S. Geological Survey Open-file report 2006-1355.
  2. Willard, D.A, Bernhardt, C.E., Holmes, C.W., Landacre, B., and Marot, M., 2007. Response of Everglades tree islands to environmental change. Ecological Monographs, v. 76, no. 4, p. 565-583.
  3. Willard, D.A. and Cronin, T.M., 2007. Paleoecology and ecosystem restoration: case studies from Chesapeake Bay and the Florida Everglades. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5, p. 491-498.

Planned Products:

  1. Journal article on long-term patterns of vegetation and hydrology in Everglades marl prairie habitats: Willard, Bernhardt, Saunders
  2. Journal article on response of the Everglades sawgrass ridge and slough landscape to late Holocene climate variability and 20th century water-management practices: Bernhardt, Willard
  3. Journal article on "Developing Sustainable Restoration Goals in the Everglades Wetland: Application of Paleoecological Evidence in Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge": Bernhardt, Brandt, Willard
  4. Journal article on pollen-vegetation calibration from transects in Everglades National Park: Willard, Bernhardt, Sah, Ross
  5. Report/journal article on carbon isotopic patterns from Everglades marl prairie habitats: Sah, Ross
  6. Synthesis of paleovegetational and paleohydrologic data from >75 sites in greater Everglades ecosystem
  7. Journal article on Native Americans, regional drought, and landscape evolution in the Florida Everglades: Bernhardt

WORK PLAN

Title of Task 1: Impacts of Hydrologic and Climatic Change on Greater Everglades Marl Prairies, Marshes, and Sloughs
Task Funding: USGS Priority Ecosystems Science
Task Leaders: D.A. Willard
Phone: 703-648-5320
FAX: 703-648-6953
Task Status (proposed or active): Active
Task priority: High
Time Frame for Task 1: FY07; FY08, FY09; FY10, FY11.
Task Personnel: C. Bernhardt, B. Landacre, J. Sah, T. Sheehan, D. Willard

Task Summary and Objectives:

The initial objective of this project is reconstruction of marl prairie vegetation and hydroperiod for the last few centuries to evaluate impacts of climate variability and anthropogenic alteration of hydrology on this critical habitat. This research builds upon previous work throughout the Greater Everglades wetland that documents responses of tree islands and the ridge and slough landscape to natural and anthropogenic hydrologic change (completed 2007). This task requires: 1) multi-proxy analyses (pollen, charcoal, carbon isotopes, geochronology) of sediment cores from marl prairie habitats; and 2) refinements to the existing Everglades pollen calibration dataset by collecting and analyzing surface samples along vegetation transects established by M. Ross and colleagues at Florida International University.

Work to be undertaken during the proposal year and a description of the methods and procedures:

We will collect a total of 70 sediment cores from 35 sites in six CSSS subpopulations We will photograph, describe, and sample at least one core from CSSS subpopulations B-F and begin pollen and geochronological analyses during FY 08. Data will be compiled into a preliminary report for ecologists at Everglades National Park

Work to be undertaken in future years:

FY09: Analysis of additional sediment cores will be undertaken after consultation with ecologists in Everglades National Park to identify most critical sites. FY10: A new sampling permit will be requested from Everglades National Park to conduct field work to address three additional questions. First, a series of surface samples will be collected along vegetation transects established by M. Ross to refine pollen-based interpretation of past vegetation in marl prairie habitats and Shark River Slough. Second, sediment cores will be collected at sites on Cape Sable known to be previously occupied by Cape Sable Seaside Sparrows. These cores will be used to determine vegetation and hydrologic characteristics associated with CSSS occupation and abandonment. Third, sediment cores will be collected at up to six additional sites in Taylor Slough and Shark River Slough. These sites will be co-located with stream gages in consultation with P. Conrads and F. Marshall for model calibration studies. FY2011 and 2012 efforts will focus on: 1) completion of marl-prairie research and submission of manuscripts to a peer-reviewed journal; 2) pollen analysis of surface samples obtained in FY10 and drafting a manuscript on results from the pollen-vegetation calibration study; and 3) pollen analysis of sediment cores collected in Taylor and Shark River Sloughs and collaboration with modelers to develop method to statistically infer past hydroperiods from down-core pollen assemblages

Specific Task Product(s):

  1. Journal article on long-term patterns of vegetation and hydrology in Everglades marl prairie habitats: Willard, Bernhardt, Saunders
  2. Journal article on response of the Everglades sawgrass ridge and slough landscape to late Holocene climate variability and 20th century water-management practices: Bernhardt, Willard
  3. Journal article on "Developing Sustainable Restoration Goals in the Everglades Wetland: Application of Paleoecological Evidence in Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge": Bernhardt, Brandt, Willard
  4. Journal article on pollen-vegetation calibration from transects in Everglades National Park: Willard, Bernhardt, Sah, Ross
  5. Report/journal article on carbon isotopic patterns from Everglades marl prairie habitats: Sah, Ross
  6. Synthesis of paleovegetational and paleohydrologic data from >75 sites in greater Everglades ecosystem
  7. Journal article on Native Americans, regional drought, and landscape evolution in the Florida Everglades: Bernhardt



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