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Presentations and Discussions Technology Briefings May 1999 Forum


Last updated: January 15, 2013
South Florida Restoration Science Forum

Southern Inland and Coastal System

Part 1: Ecosystem Processes and Simulated Surface-Water Flows

Poster presented May 1999, at the South Florida Restoration Science Forum

Poster presented by: Henry Ruhl


The interconnected wetlands of Taylor Slough and nearshore embayments of Florida Bay constitute a critically sensitive component of the Everglades ecosystem. Flora and fauna in the wetlands and aquatic life in the
Flow measurement
Flow measurements.
embayments are mutually dependent on the magnitude, duration, and timing of freshwater inflows. Current restoration efforts are focused on sustaining hydroperiods in the wetlands and salinity levels in the embayments that are consistent with habitat requirements. The purpose of the interdisciplinary Southern Inland and Coastal System (SICS) Project is to synthesize scientific findings from hydrologic studies and integrate these into a model to aid research and management of this ecosystem. The SICS model is founded on current scientific findings and field-collected data. It simulates both sheet flow in the wetlands and tidal flows in the embayments. Thus, the interacting effects of freshwater inflows on hydroperiods and flow patterns in the wetlands and dynamic forces that affect flow and salinity conditions in the tidal embayments can be simultaneously evaluated. This comprehensive information is invaluable to the decision-making process of land and resource managers for planning, evaluating, and executing restoration actions.

Ecosystem Processes

Ecosystem process
(Click on image for full-sized version.)
Complex processes interact within the hydrologic cycle of the Southern Inland and Coastal System to influence ecosystem functions. Sediment cores are collected and analyzed by scientists to reconstruct the ecosystem history and thereby estimate how the system functioned in the past. Surface-water inflows, precipitation, and ground-water exchanges interact with evaporation and plant transpiration processes to define the amount of water flowing through the wetlands to Taylor Slough to Florida Bay. Land- surface gradients, resistance effects of vegetation, dynamic forces of wind, and tidal influences from Florida Bay combine to determine the rate of flow and transport of nutrients that can affect living resources. Empirical coefficients describing these hydrologic ecosystem properties, were used to develop the SICS model.

Simulated Surface-Water Flows

The SICS model simulates water levels, flow velocities, and mass fluxes throughout the Taylor Slough and Florida Bay area identified in the map to the right. Model input consists of data describing ecosystem properties, for example, land-surface elevations and vegetation characteristics, in addition to coefficients representing spatially varied processes, such as friction resistance and surface stress. Measured flow and transport conditions are supplied to calibrate the model and to conduct simulations. Color-coded contours of water levels and vectors representing the direction and magnitude of flows illustrate output produced by the model. The effects of freshwater inflows on hydroperiods in the wetlands and salinity conditions in the embayments can be evaluated from this model output.

Map showing surface-water flow
Map showing surface-water flow. (Click on map for full-sized version.)

Support and assistance provided by:

National Park Service/Everglades National Park
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
South Florida Water Management District
Big Cypress National Preserve
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

For more information, see the South Florida Information Access website at:

Related Links

Next Next: Ecosystem history and living resources

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Center for Coastal Geology
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Last updated: 15 January, 2013 @ 12:44 PM (HSH)