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Comparison of the South Florida Natural System Model with Pre-Canal Everglades Hydrology Estimated from Historical Sources

photo of wetlands in the everglades
Project Investigator: Chris McVoy


Improving upstream water quality and hydropatterns to preserve and restore the remaining Everglades ecosystem.

Please note - this is a completed project.

Preservation and restoration of the remaining Everglades ecosystem is focussed on two aspects: improving upstream water quality and improving "hydropatterns" - the timing, depth and flow of surface water. Restoration of hydropatterns requires knowledge of the original pre-canal drainage conditions as well as an understanding of the soil, topo-graphic, and vegetation changes that have taken place since canal drainage began in the 1880's.

The Natural System Model (NSM), developed by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and Everglades National Park, uses estimates of pre-drainage vegetation and topography to estimate the pre-drainage hydrologic response of the Everglades. Sources of model uncertainty include: (1) the algorithms, (2) the parameters (particularly those relating to vegetation roughness and evapotranspiration), and (3) errors in the assumed pre-drainage vegetation distribution and pre-drainage topography. Other studies are concentrating on algorithmic and parameter sources of uncertainty.

In this study we focus on the NSM output -- predicted hydropattern -- and evaluate this by comparison with all available direct and indirect information on pre-drainage hydropatterns. The unpublished and published literature is being searched exhaustively for observations of water depth, flow direction, flow velocity and hydroperiod, during the period prior and just after drainage (1840-1920).

Additionally, a comprehensive map of soils in the Everglades region, prepared in the 1940's by personnel from the University of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Everglades Drainage District, is being used to identify wetland soils and to infer the spatial distribution of pre-drainage hydrologic conditions. Detailed study of this map and other early soil and vegetation maps in light of the history of drainage activities will reveal patterns of change and possible errors in the input to the NSM. Changes in the wetland soils are important because of their effects on topography (soil subsidence) and in their role as indicators of hydropattern.



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