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Project Summary Sheet

U.S. Geological Survey, Greater Everglades Science Initiative (Place-Based Studies)

Fiscal Year 2003 Project Summary Report

Project Title: Creation of a Digital Archive of Historical Aerial Photographs for Everglades National Park & the Greater Everglades Ecosystem

Project Start Date: 1 July 2002 Project End Date: 30 June 2007

Web Sites: http://sofia.usgs.gov

Location (Subregions, Counties, Park or Refuge): Lake Okeechobee, Loxahatchee NWR, 10,000 Islands NWR, Key Deer NWR, Great White Heron NWR, Crocodile Lakes NWR, Biscayne NP, Everglades NP, Big Cypress NP, WCA1-3, all counties south of Lake Okeechobee, southwest Florida, southeast Florida

Funding Source: USGS's Greater Everglades Science Initiative (PBS), National Park Service, USGS-BRD-GCC funds

Principal Investigator(s): T.J. Smith III & Ann M. Foster

Project Personnel: A. Coffin (UF-Student Contractor), K. Watkins (CSC)

Supporting Organizations: SFWMD, EPA, FWS, NPS, NRCS

Associated / Linked Projects:

Overview & Objective(s): A foundation for the Everglade's restoration must include a clear understanding of the pre-drainage south Florida landscape. Knowledge of the spatial organization and structure of pre-drainage landscape communities such as mangrove forests, marshes, sloughs, wet prairies, and pinelands, is essential to provide potential endpoints, restoration goals and performance measures to gauge restoration success. Information contained in historical aerial photographs of the Everglades can aid in this endeavor. The earliest known aerial photographs, from the mid to late 1920s, and resulted in the production of T-Sheets (Topographic Sheets) for the coasts and shorelines of south Florida. The T-Sheets are remarkably detailed, delineating features such as, shorelines, ponds, and waterways, in addition to the position of the boundary between differing vegetation communities. If followed through time changes in the position of these ecotones could potentially be used to judge effects of changes in the landscape of the Everglades ecosystem, providing a standard by which restoration success can be ascertained. Participants at a recent "Performance Measure Workshop," sponsored by Everglades National Park, realized the importance of translating the Park's aerial photo archives into digital format. The value they represent to the Greater Everglades research community for developing a pre-drainage baseline is great. Investigators from all four USGS Divisions, the National Park Service, the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Coastal Everglades LTER program have all expressed interest in such a collection when the initial concept was proposed at the recent International Estuarine Research Federation meeting in St. Petersburg and more recently when OFRs were distributed and the geodatabase previewed at the 2003 GEERS conference.

Status: This project is operating on the last bit of funding from the NPS and the remnants of BRD-GCC carryover dollars from FY02. The NPS promised funding from CESI did not come through. The NPS has placed the project on "hold" and hopes that it can be restarted in FY04. The PIs have approached two groups (SFWMD and the Interagency Fire Management Team) concerning possible end of year funds in FY03.

Recent & Planned Products: The following abstracts all appeared in: Best, G.R. 2003. U.S. Geological Survey Greater Everglades Science Program: 2002 Biennial Report. USGS Open-File Report 03-54.

  1. Briere, P.R., T.J. Smith III, A.M. Foster, A.W. Coffin, K. Rutchey, J.W. Jones, C. Van Arsdal, & W.B. Perry. Development of digital Aerial photography archives for the greater Everglades of south Florida. Pp. 225-226
  2. Coffin, A.W., H. Henkel, H. Mounts, P.R. Briere, A.M. Foster, T.J. Smith III & R.R. Wertz. Creation of a geodatabase of the digital photography archives for the Greater Everglades of south Florida and the Southern and Inland Coastal System. Pp. 227-228.

Additional publications / products / presentations:

  1. Smith, T.J. III, A.M. Foster, P.R. Briere, J.W. Jones & C. Van Arsdall. 2002. Conversion of historical topographic sheets (T-sheets) to digital form: Florida Everglades and vicinity. USGS, Open-File Report 02-204. CD-ROM (Available from the project website: http://sofia.usgs.gov)
  2. Smith, T.J., III, A.M. Foster, P.R. Briere, A.W. Coffin, J.W. Jones & C. Van Arsdall. 2003. Historical aerial photography for the Greater Everglades of south Florida: The 1940, 1:40,000 photoset. USGS, Open-File Report 02-327. DVD.

Relevance to Greater Everglades Restoration Information Needs: The various data layers produced by this project will be used by CERP teams in every region of the greater Everglades. As the different photosets get scanned they will be turned into GIS layers that can be used as tools by the CERP teams as individual projects get planned and implemented. At the recent GEERS conference the SFWMD expressed interest in using our products to help define performance measures for the ridge and slough province of the Everglades and for mapping the “white zone” in the area of the C-111 spreader canal. These are but two examples of how products from this project will aid and assist CERP.

Key Findings:

  • CERP is using a vegetation map from 1940 as the “base-line” for restoration. Our results indicate that vegetation communities in the coastal Everglades underwent major changes between 1927 and 1940. So the “base-line” is not necessarily correct.
  • Not all changes in vegetation are related to altered hydrology, some appear more closely tied to sea level rise or catastrophic, large-scale disturbance from hurricanes.

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Last updated: 04 September, 2013 @ 02:08 PM(TJE)