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Project Summary Sheet

U.S. Geological Survey, Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Science (GE PES) Initiative

Fiscal Year 2005 Study Summary Report

Study Title: Ecological Models for Evaluating Effects of Restoration Alternatives on Coastal Ecosystems of Southwest Florida
Study Start Date: 6/30/2004 Study End Date: 6/29/2006
Web Sites:
Location: Charlotte, Collier, Lee, and Hendry counties
Funding Source: ENP Critical Ecosystems Studies Initiative (CESI) and USGS Priority Ecosystems Science (PES) Initiative
Principal Investigators: Frank Mazzotti, University of Florida, IFAS, 3205 College Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314-7799 Phone: 954-577-6304 Fax: 954-475-4125 e-mail: fjma@ufl.edu
Leonard Pearlstine, University of Florida, IFAS, 3205 College Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314-7799
Donald L. DeAngelis, Phone 305-284-1690, e-mail ddangelis@umiami.ir.miami.edu
Study Personnel: Ikuko Fujisaki, Kevin Chartier
Other Supporting Organizations: USGS Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Science (GE PES), ACE, SFWMD
Associated Projects: A Spatially Explicit Decision Support System for Everglades Ecological Risk Assessment and Restoration

Overview & Objectives: The Southwest Florida Feasibility Study (SWFFS) is a component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The SWFFS is an independent but integrated implementation plan for CERP projects and was initiated in recognition that there were additional water resource issues (needs, problems, and opportunities) within Southwest Florida not being addressed directly by CERP. The SWFFS identifies, evaluates, and compares alternatives that address those additional water resource issues in Southwest Florida. An adaptive assessment strategy is being developed that will create a system-wide monitoring program to measure and interpret ecosystem responses. The SWFFS provides an essential framework to address the health and sustainability of aquatic systems. This includes a focus on water quantity and quality, flood protection, and ecological integrity. A key component in adaptive management of the SWFFS is evaluating alternatives. Regional hydrological and ecological models will be applied to evaluate restoration alternatives and the results will be applied to modify alternatives.

The objectives of this project are to: develop and apply ecological forecasting models used to evaluate alternatives for the SWFFS.

Coastal modeling and interface development is completed for Eastern Oyster, Spotted Sea Trout, Blue Crab, Seagrass and Valisneria models. Assistance in developing appropriate measures for inland evaluations is ongoing and modeling started in June. A decision support system for comparison of multiple alternatives and criteria is nearing completion.

Recent Progress:
Coastal: Technical assistance was provided to the Water Management District for development of decision support methods. Model verification was performed on the coastal models to insure that the internal algorithms are producing the expected results.

Five ecological suitability models, Blue Crab, American Oyster, Spotted Sea Trout, Seagrass and Valisneria have been completed and incorporated as modules into a decision interface that allows the user to perform pair-wise comparisons of spatially-explicit species habitat suitability model runs against alternative Caloosahatchee River water release scenarios, examine the contribution of each input variables (e.g., salinity, temperature, flow) to the resulting suitability values, and obtain habitat units for decision models.

Inland: Meetings with the SWFFS Natural Systems Group are resulting in a series inland systems performance measures and modeling efforts that will be incorporated as modules in a decision interface. Dale Gawlik and Philip Heidemann have been collecting in-depth information in one-on-one interviews with wading bird experts in Southwestern Florida and completed a conceptual model with associated parameter values to be coded. An amphibian work group composed of Mike Duever, Ken Rice, Harden Waddle, and David Ceilly has completed a conceptual model with associated parameter values to be coded. Work on potential performance measures for landscape connectivity of large mammals, and models of aquatic fauna communities begins in September.

Planned Products:
Wading bird modeling began in May, Amphibian began in June, and landscape metric modeling and aquatic fauna will begin in September.

To aid making decisions on implementing alternatives when the impacts on multiples species must be compared together, a multi-criteria decision model has been developed. The decision support model and interface is product is at an initial stage of completion, i.e., it is programmed, but is undergoing code verification trials to insure that the output being produced is correct under all the options allowed in the program.

Specific Relevance to Information Needs Identified in DOI's Science Plan in Support of Ecosystem Restoration, Preservation, and Protection in South Florida (DOI's Everglades Science Plan) [Page numbers listed below are from the DOI Everglades Science Plan. See Plan on SOFIA's Web site: http://sofia.usgs.gov/publications/reports/doi-science-plan/]:

This is a total system study that potentially supports information needs for all of the CERP activities that impact ecological communities. The decision aids and methodologies for decision-making are implicit in the DOI Science Plan which requires the gathered science to be integrated and applied to restoration. The ecological modeling, synthesis of science information, and application of decision aids specifically supports CERP as it (1) helps with prioritization of science resource allocations (p. 11); (2) helps decision-makers in establishing specific goals and objectives in the context of conflicting priorities and adaptive management (pp. 10,15 & 17); and (3) provides a systematic and documented procedure to evaluating alternatives for what actions will restore, protect, and manage natural resources on DOI lands in South Florida and what actions will recover South Florida's threatened and endangered species (p. 9).

In this year the study supports two of the projects listed in the DOI science plan (specifically: Southwest Florida Feasibility Study, C-43 Basin Storage Reservoir) by (a) developing models of habitat, biological diversity, and community ecological characteristics and (b) developing integrated assessment tools to support landscape level decision.

The study supports the Lower West Coast projects (SWFFS and C-43; p. 49) as it (1) provides assessment tools that are a critical priority for making landscape level restoration decisions that favor one species or trophic level over another or that maximize biodiversity with an ecological system (p. 49); spatially models the impacts of hydrologic targets on ecological conditions and the critical links between hydrology, water quality and ecological responses in southwest Florida (p. 50); (3) models how hydrologic and water quality targets relate to the landscape-scale assemblages of habitats needed to support the area's fish and wildlife resources and particularly, the wide-ranging species (p. 50); Geographic information system mapping for habitat database of hydrologic restoration contributions to listed species and the protection and enhancement of fish and wildlife value (p. 50); and aids in the identification of key indicator of the desired ecological responses (p. 51).

Key Findings:

  1. The Coastal GIS stress/response models and user interface that have been completed met the specific needs for habitat and ecological evaluation of Southwest Florida restoration actions.
  2. Improvements to the current habitat models and evaluations should proceed with the MAP adaptive assessment protocol using these models as the basis for field validation. Field studies should be designed to test the habitat and landscape feature relationships of species and community models.
  3. Existing decision support methods will provide the aid needed by policy-makers in selecting among alternative restoration plans, but one SDSS should not try to address every need. Developers need to continue working closely with agency scientist and decision-makers to tailor products to the resource questions.

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