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Project Work Plan

Department of Interior USGS GE PES
Fiscal Year 2012 Study Work Plan

Study Title: Wildlife indicators of Greater Everglades restoration progress, climate change, and shifts in ecosystem services
Study Start Date: 01 October 2011
Study End Date: 30 September 2012, with possibility of future funding tied to progress
Duration: 12 months
Location (Subregions, Counties, Park or Refuge): Southern Florida, entire range of species being considered including parts of the Southeastern US, and Central and South America
Funding Source: GE PES
Other Complementary Funding Sources: USFWS science hold back award for Phase 1 (see explanation below)*
Funding History: FWS to University of Florida partners, CESI to University of Florida partners, GE PES for Phase 1
Principal Investigators: Phase 1: Stephanie S. Romañach (USGS), James I. Watling (University of Florida), Laura A. Brandt (USFWS), Leonard G. Pearlstine (NPS), Don DeAngelis (USGS)
Study Personnel: Phase 1: Carolina Cabal (University of Florida), Allison Lambert (University of Florida), David Bucklin (University of Florida); Phase 2: Stephanie S. Romañach (USGS)
Supporting Organizations: FWS, NPS, University of Florida
Associated / Linked Studies: 'Climate envelope modeling for evaluating anticipated effects of climate change on threatened and endangered species' (funded by CESI); 'Refinement of species-habitat models and development of climate envelope models for evaluation of potential effects of climate change on threatened and endangered species' (funded by USFWS); 'Scientific and Technical Support for a Joint Ecosystem Modeling Laboratory' (funded by PES)

*NOTE: This study is split into two phases: modeling and field work. Phase 1, 'Climate envelope modeling for evaluating anticipated effects of climate change on threatened and endangered species in the Greater Everglades' will wrap up in FY12 with expansion to Phase 2, 'Shorebird communities as indicators of Greater Everglades restoration progress, climate change, and shifts in ecosystem services' in FY12. This work plan documents each phase separately.

PHASE 1: Climate envelope modeling for evaluating anticipated effects of climate change on threatened and endangered species in the Greater Everglades

Overview & Objective(s): Climate change is poised to induce a cascade of direct and indirect effects on biodiversity that will require novel, data-driven approaches to management. To provide robust estimates of climate change effects on species of greatest conservation concern, we will create climate envelope models for 26 species of non-marine threatened and endangered (T&E) vertebrates that occur in south Florida. We will compile the most up-to-date information on T&E vertebrates in the study area and use these data to select a subset of climate variables with known and quantifiable relationships to the ecology of focal species. Our analytical approach will emphasize an ensemble modeling approach to projecting future distributions of climate niche space for T&E vertebrates. Because our research group includes representatives of major agencies involved in biodiversity conservation, our results will be made available to decision makers in a timely and accessible manner that maximizes the utility of our models for conservation decision-making.

Table 1. Focal species for climate envelope modeling

Common name

Scientific name

Mammals

Florida Bonneted Bat

Eumops floridianus

Florida Salt Marsh Vole

Microtus pennsylvanicus dukecampbelli

Key Largo Woodrat

Neotoma floridana smalli

Key Deer

Odocoileus virginianus clavium

Silver Rice Rat

Oryzomys palustris natator

Key Largo Cottom Mouse

Peromyscus gossypinus allapaticola

Southeastern Beach Mouse

Peromyscus polionotus niveiventris

Anastasia Island Beach Mouse

Peromyscus polionotus phasmus

Florida Panther

Puma concolor coryi

Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit

Sylvilagus palustris hefneri

Birds

Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow

Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis

Florida Grasshopper Sparrow

Ammodramus savannarum floridanus

Florida Scrub Jay

Aphelocoma coerulescens

Piping Plover

Charadrius melodus

Whooping crane

Grus americana

Wood Stork

Mycteria americana

Red-cockaded woodpecker

Picoides borealis

Audobon Crested Caracara

Polyborus plancus audobonii

Everglades Snail Kite

Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus

Roseate Tern

Sterna dougallii dougallii

Amphibians and Reptiles

Flatwoods Salamander

Ambystoma cingulatum

American Crocodile

Crocodylus actutus

Eastern Indigo Snake

Drymarchon corais couperi

Bluetail Mole Skink

Eumeces egregius lividus

Sand Skink

Neoseps reynoldsi

Atlantic Salt Marsh Snake

Nerodia clarkii taeniata

Specific Relevance to Major Unanswered Questions and Information Needs Identified:

Status:

The methods and tools we develop will allow resource managers to examine potential effects of climate change on species under their stewardship in the context of ecosystem and landscape planning. We will work to close the gap between managers and scientists who produce data necessary for making key decisions in the face of climate change. Locally, resource managers within South Florida (including NPS, FWS, and the South Florida Water Management District) have indicated the need to run predictive models and view model outputs on their desktop computers, the ability to adjust model parameters when assessing alternatives, and for a spatially-explicit visualization environment for comparing alternatives. The Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystem Science program provided seed funding to develop a prototype application, called EverVIEW, to address the needs of resource managers. EverVIEW has been met with enthusiasm by the aforementioned agencies and further development should serve our need of making data, information, and model output available to resource managers.

Planned Products: Phase 1 will wrap up with the following products:

WORK PLAN for Phase 1

Compile map layers of current species' geographic ranges

During FY12, we will finish acquiring occurrence data for the remaining species from georeferenced literature, provide documentation, and input the data into our climate models.

Land cover/habitat information will be compiled from a variety of sources and then associations/linkages will be made among classes in the various layers (i.e., cross-walking)

We have acquired land cover/habitat information for four sources of land cover data that range from local to continental in extent: (1) land cover developed for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan system-wide Monitoring and Assessment Plan (South Florida Water Management District); (2) a synthesis of the Florida Gap Map for Everglades National Park, and land cover maps produced for above for WCA1, WCA2 and WCA3; (3) Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 2003 Florida vegetation and land cover raster dataset; and (4) the MODIS Terra Land Cover Type Yearly L3 Global 1 km SIN Grid. We have completed crosswalking of two of the data sources and will do the remaining in FY12.

Database of climate information important for species geographic range limits (e.g., temperature, precipitation)

We will continue to assess performance of alternative climate datasets, expanding the pool of species and, as appropriate, additional climate datasets. The preliminary data presented will form the basis of a manuscript to be submitted to a scientific journal. The goal for submission of the manuscript describing our quantitative assessment of climate conditions on model performance will be the first quarter of 2011. The target journal is Ecosphere. In addition, the information will be used in a technical guidebook that will be developed in the next two years with funding from FWS (National Office 2010 science hold back money) and NPS (CESI). The guidebook will describe construction and interpretation of climate envelope models. There will be sections that discuss data needs, assumptions, and uncertainty in models using our target species as case studies to illustrate the use of climate envelope models as decision support tools. We are also preparing a free, searchable online database of species traits related to climate change impacts that will go live in FY12.

Fact sheet(s) describing the project and potential impacts of climate change on threatened and endangered species

We will produce an updated project fact sheet.

PHASE 2: Shorebird communities as indicators of Greater Everglades restoration progress, climate change, and shifts in ecosystem services

Overview & Objective(s): Some of the major benefits from a restored Greater Everglades ecosystem are improved ecosystem services such as enhanced groundwater purification, increased recreational activity, and additional and improved wildlife habitat. The primary form of wildlife viewing tourism in Florida, which provides over $3 billion in revenue, is from bird watching of wading birds and waterfowl, with 1.5 million tourists engaging annually. As restoration project implementation progresses, freshwater flows should increase and lead to improved habitat for birds and other wildlife. Increased overland, freshwater flow will have the added benefit of providing runoff at the coasts, resulting in more natural salinities at the fringing estuarine ecosystem. These changes will likely improve habitat for endangered species such as manatees and crocodiles, as well as other species of tourism importance such as coastal birds.

Concurrent with restoration progress, sea level rise will likely increase salt water intrusion onto the mainland. This potential increase in salinity could have negative consequences for coastal species. Shorebirds, for example, use the open, interior marshes for foraging on invertebrates. Sea level rise, and increased storm and flooding frequencies could alter the necessary habitats for shorebird foraging; and increased freshwater flows may mitigate the increased salinities, but could also alter the interior marsh.

Migrating shorebirds are dependent on some of the interior marshes throughout North America for foraging and resting along their routes. Cheyenne Bottoms, for example, a 40,000 acre interior marsh in Kansas is used by 90% of North America's populations of North America's population of Wilson's phalarope, long-billed dowitcher, white-rumped sandpiper, Baird's sandpiper, and stilt sandpiper. Little is known about the importance of interior marshes in the Greater Everglades for shorebirds, migratory and overwintering.

Coastal communities that rely on a balance between fresh and salt water can be indicators for ecosystem change. Measuring the abilities of fauna such as shorebirds to successfully forage in the interior marshes of the Greater Everglades can help quantify the impacts from restoration and climate change as well as forecast shifts in ecosystem services benefits.

Specific Relevance to Major Unanswered Questions and Information Needs Identified:

Status:

This project is in the planning stages. The PI, Romañach, has begun communications and collaborations with partner agencies and organizations (Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, National Wetlands Research Center, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University). During FY12, time will be spent in the field and working with partners to develop proper study design and sampling methods.

Data collected as a result of the project can serve to answer some of the major DOI science needs (cited above). Results of this study will provide information about the usage of southwest Florida's interior marshes by shorebird communities. Results will also allow natural resource managers to examine potential effects of restoration and climate change on wildlife under their stewardship in the context of ecosystem and landscape management planning.

Planned Products: Phase 2 in FY12 will produce:

WORK PLAN for Phase 2

This study will be carried out in the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge (TTI) and in a comparison site of similar habitat to control for the effects of restoration. TTI is located south of the Picayune Strand Restoration Project and will be receiving overland flow of freshwater as restoration progresses and the canals in Picayune are plugged. Shorebirds use both the interior marsh and the fringing islands of TTI. In the future, the interior marsh will be impacted from the north by freshwater moving south from Picayune and from the south by predicted sea level rise and saltwater intrusion. Restoration is expected to bring freshwater back to TTI and may result in increased water levels and/or extended hydroperiods. Saltwater influx from the south could cause increased water salinity. These changes in fresh and salt water may impact the abundance and composition of the invertebrate communities that shorebirds rely on for forage. Results of shorebird usage of the interior marshes of TTI will be compared to a control site, such as an interior marsh site further east in Big Cypress, that will not immediately be impacted by restoration projects.

In future years this project will explore linkages with two modeling approaches. The first of these modeling approaches will be to link field observations to climate envelope models (Phase 1 of this project). In FY12 the climate envelope project team will be linking habitat to the climate envelope models to provide more biological realism. We can then see how habitats might shift with future climate changes, providing better information on where species might live in the future. The models of climate linked with habitat will allow us to project into the future to show where these species might occur in the future to assist with land and habitat management and planning. The second modeling approach that will be explored is to use the numerical hydrologic and salinity model developed for TTI by the National Wetlands Research Center and the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. This model can help determine future hydrologic patterns and salinities given different upstream freshwater release scenarios. If water and salinity levels turn out to be more important than factors such as invertebrate community composition and vegetation/habitat, exploring the use of this numerical model tied to shorebird needs could be very useful for wildlife and land management planning.

Many partner agencies and organizations (Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, National Wetlands Research Center, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University) are working in the area on shorebirds monitoring, water level and salinity monitoring, vegetation transects, and invertebrate community identification. In these early planning stages, partner organizations in the region have expressed enthusiasm for this proposed study as it will begin to tie wildlife usage of the refuge to salinity, water levels, and habitat availability, a topic of great interest to the National Wildlife Refuge.

Tentatively planned data to be collected/used to inform the project: