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Project Work Plan

Department of Interior USGS GE PES
Fiscal Year 2014 Study Work Plan

Study Title: Determining Target Salinity Values for Restoration of the Estuaries of the Greater Everglades
Current Study Start Date: 10/1/06 Current Study End Date: 9/30/2015
Location (Subregions, Counties, Park, or Refuge): Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, Ten Thousand Islands NWR. Miami-Dade, Monroe, Collier, and Lee Counties, FL.
Funding Source: USGS GE PES
Funding History: FY07; FY08, FY09; FY10, FY11; FY12; FY13
FY14 USGS Funding:
Principal Investigator: G. Lynn Wingard
Supporting Organizations: (Cooperative support) South Florida Water Management District; Everglades National Park; Biscayne National Park, Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish & Wildlife Service, NOAA, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, DERM (Dade Country Environmental Resource Management), Audubon Society of Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Overview & Objective(s):

The Greater Everglades Ecosystem of South Florida has undergone a number of anthropogenic and natural changes over the last century. A critical component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is to "get the water right." Before restoration can take place, however, it is essential to understand the natural ecosystem as a whole and to comprehend the natural patterns and cycles of change that took place in the system, prior to significant human disturbance. In South Florida, the primary need for historical data has been to understand the natural patterns of flow of freshwater through the wetlands and into the estuaries, and the impact of water control structures built during the 20th century. Paleoecologic investigations of cores collected throughout the estuaries of South Florida are providing data on historical salinity patterns and providing input to statistical models to predict freshwater flow and stage. The historical perspective of change over decadal to centennial time scales provides the information necessary for land managers to set realistic and sustainable targets and performance measures for restoration and provides an insight into the future of South Florida under various restoration and climate change scenarios.

The primary objective of this project is to provide information to CERP managers (specifically the Southern Coastal Systems (SCS) Sub-team of the Regional Evaluation Team of RECOVER) that can be used to establish target salinity values and performance measures for the estuaries and coastal ecosystems, and to estimate the freshwater stage and flow in the wetlands required to produce the historical salinity patterns. This work builds upon previous work in Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay, and information derived from the Ecosystem History Synthesis Project (completed 2007). There are three areas of focus for this task. 1) Refine our existing modern analog data set by completing analyses of modern samples collected between 1996 and 2012, obtaining additional modern samples where necessary, and applying these improved analog data to core data compiled in the Ecosystem History Synthesis Project. 2) Collect new cores (if necessary) or examine existing archived cores within the southern estuaries to fill in information gaps identified by the land management agencies (Everglades National Park (ENP) and Biscayne National Park (BNP)), and by the Southern Coastal Systems Sub-team. 3) Work with our collaborator/contractor, Dr. Frank Marshall, to couple paleosalinity estimates based on the core analyses with linear regression models that can hindcast stage, flow and hydropatterns in the terrestrial Everglades, and salinity in the estuaries, based on equations developed from observed water monitoring station data. These efforts, when combined with our "Sea Level Rise and Climate: Impacts on the Greater Everglades Ecosystem and Restoration" Project, will ultimately lead to the ability to forecast future changes and develop salinity targets for estuaries for the CERP 2030/2050 Plans that incorporate natural hydrologic relationships and sea level rise, and take into account future altered conditions under various IPCC scenarios. These data can be used to help select minimum flows and levels for the wetlands. The estuaries of South Florida are not only a "living laboratory of change" but they provide the record of past changes that allow us to forecast the direction of future change.

Specific Relevance to Major Unanswered Questions and Information Needs Identified:

The importance and application of ecosystem history research to restoration goals has been identified in a number of documents. The DOI Science Plan lists as one of the three primary restoration activities the need to "ensure that hydrologic performance targets accurately reflect the natural predrainage hydrology and ecology" (DOI Science Plan, p. 14). The USGS Science Plan for south Florida (2003 draft, msp. 7) identifies five primary science goals, the second of which is to "determine the historical ecological setting of the Everglades." The primary goal of this project, and related previous ecosystem history projects, is to determine the predrainage hydrology and ecology of critical regions within the estuaries and coastal ecosystems of south Florida. This project specifically addresses the needs identified by the Southern Coastal Systems (SCS) Sub-team of the Regional Evaluation Team (RET) of RECOVER. The SCS Sub-team is tasked with establishing performance measures and salinity targets for the estuaries. Project members are serving on the SCS Sub-team and project results are contributing directly to a revised salinity performance measure that are included in the FY2014 System Status Update.

Specific "major unanswered questions" asked in the DOI Science Plan addressed by this project include:

This study supports these CERP projects by 1) conducting research to understand the predrainage hydrology, including the amount, timing and seasonality of freshwater delivered to the estuaries historically; 2) examining the historical environmental conditions, including the linkage between hydrology (water quality and quantity), ecology, and habitats; 3) providing modelers with data on historic conditions in order to set targets and performance measures that reflect natural hydrologic patterns; and 4) providing long-term historical data on trends and cycles within the biological component of the ecosystem that can be forecasted to predict the effects of implementation of hydrologic restoration on the ecology of coastal communities.

Planned Products for FY14:

  1. Marshall, F.E., Wingard, G.L., and Pitts, P.A., in press, Estimates of Natural Salinity and Hydrology in the Southern Everglades, Florida: Implications for Management. Estuaries and Coasts.
  2. Van Riper, C., Cloern, J., Gelfenbaum, G., Jacobson, R., Kershner, J., McGuire, A.D., Nichols, J., Shapiro, C., White, R., Williams, B., Wingard, G.L., USGS Ecosystem Research for the Next Decade: Advancing Discovery and Application through Collaboration. George Wright Society Forum and/or Wildlife Professionals. [Contains specific example from project Everglades Salinity Target research]
  3. Wingard, G.L., accepted, Application of Paleoecology to Ecosystem Restoration: A Case Study from South Florida's Estuaries. In K. Weckstrom (editor), Developments in Paleoenvironmental Research: Palaeoestuarine Studies. Springer.
  4. Wingard, G.L. and Surge, D., accepted, Application of Molluscan Analyses to the Reconstruction of Past Environmental Conditions in Estuaries. In K. Weckstrom (editor), Developments in Paleoenvironmental Research: Palaeoestuarine Studies. Springer.
  5. Wingard, G.L., Marshall, F.E., and Pitts, P.A., accepted, Estimating Natural Hydrology and Salinity in an Altered Estuarine Ecosystem: An Example from the Greater Everglades, Florida. Abstract for CEER Conference.
  6. Wingard, G.L., Bernhardt, C.B., Wachnicka, A., and Stackhouse, B.L., accepted, The Role of Paleoecology, in Planning for Future Management Scenarios: Examples from the Greater Everglades, Florida. Abstract for CEER Conference.
  7. Preliminary report on linkages between wetland cores and linear regression models as proof of concept
  8. Updated modern analog dataset released on SOFIA data exchange

Work Plan

Task 1 Leaders: Christopher Bernhardt
Phone: 703-648-6071
FAX: 703-648-6953
Task priority: 1
Task 1 Personnel: C. Bernhardt, L. Wingard, USGS. Frank Marshall, Cetacean Logic Foundation, CESU Contractor

Task 1 Summary and Objective(s): Linkages between estuarine and wetlands cores

The purpose of this task is to provide verification of the linear regression models with data from cores in the freshwater wetlands. The linear regression models were developed by estimating paleosalinity at core sites in Florida Bay and using these data in linear regression models to estimate flow and stage in the wetlands. This task will examine cores from the wetlands, and see if the floral assemblages agree with the predicted flow and stage based on the linear regression models.

Work to be undertaken during the proposal year and a description of the methods and procedures:

The first step will be to do a quick comparison of the ~1900 environment in the existing wetlands cores to see if the floral data are consistent with the model-predicted stage and flow. If the answer to this is yes, then C. Bernhardt will use modern surface samples to develop a transfer function for water depth and one core will be examined in detail in FY14 as a proof of concept.

Specific Task 1 Products:


Delivery Date

1) Preliminary report on one core

Fall 2014

Task 2 Leaders: Lynn Wingard
Phone: 703-648-5352
FAX: 703-648-6953
Task priority: 2
Task 2 Personnel: L. Wingard, B. Stackhouse

Task 2 Summary and Objective(s): Improve Modern Analog Dataset

Data on modern mollusk species serves as the basis for the paleosalinity interpretations of the cores, which in turn serves as the input for the linear regression models that predict stage and flow in the wetlands prior to canal construction. The more complete the modern dataset is the more confidence we have in predictions of paleosalinity and the more accurate the model output. Thus, it is a high priority to try to fill in data gaps with observations of living species. We currently have 38 species with sufficient modern data to be considered confident, but there are an additional 50 species for which we lack sufficient knowledge. One goal in FY14 will be to improve this modern analog data through two resources: 1) our own field observations and 2) incorporating data from Florida Fish & Wildlife collections made in the 1990s and available to us.

Work to be undertaken during the proposal year and a description of the methods and procedures:

Work on this task was put on hold in FY13 and early FY14 due to sequestration and travel restrictions. We were able in February 2013 to visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission offices in St. Petersburg and inventory their collections. We plan to work with the original collector (now retired) in FY14 to attach salinity and location data to the list of species acquired. These data will significantly increase our own modern analog data set. In addition, fieldwork conducted in April 2014 will target collection of specific indicator species to try and increase our confidence in the paleosalinity interpretations.

Specific Task Products:


Delivery Date

1) Updated modern analog dataset released on SOFIA data exchange

Fall 2014

Task 3 Leaders: Lynn Wingard
Phone: 703-648-5352
FAX: 703-648-6953
Task priority: 3
Task 3 Personnel: L. Wingard, B. Stackhouse, USGS. Frank Marshall, Cetacean Logic Foundation, CESU Contractor; Anna Wachnicka, FIU, CESU Contractor

Task 3 Summary and Objective(s): Synthesize Core Information across South Florida

A number of cores have been collected and analyzed over the years to determine ecosystem history and specifically paleosalinity. In recent years, however, new taxonomic concepts, division of species groups, the addition of new/updated modern analog data, and the development of the cumulative weighted percent method of estimating paleosalinity, makes a reanalysis of the previous assessments highly advantageous. The outcome of a reassessment would be to examine all the cores with a single set of criteria, and then synthesize the results across the south Florida estuaries with respect to the paleosalinity. These data can then be used in the linear regression equations developed by Frank Marshall in future years.

Work to be undertaken during the proposal year and a description of the methods and procedures:

We are currently working our way back through previously analyzed cores, doing new faunal counts and statistical analyses. Once the modern analog dataset is updated (task 2 above) we will apply the new analog data to the reassessed cores, proceeding through each core one at a time. In addition, we located some cores stored in St. Petersburg (collected in the 1990s) that had never been examined for paleosalinity. Faunal counts of these cores are currently underway. Part of this task will include determining after synthesis of the information if the Southern Coastal Systems team has additional information needs. For example, would coring in the 7 Lakes area make sense? Are there information gaps that still need to be filled?

Specific Task Products:


Delivery Date

1) Preliminary reports on unpublished cores as faunal counts are completed

Early 2015

2) Synthesis of all molluscan faunal data from cores throughout South Florida's estuaries

Late 2015

3) Synthesis of linear regression models based off of core analyses from 3 regions in south Florida


4) Final synthesis of all information available on ecosystem history of south Florida


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Last updated: 26 August, 2016 @ 01:22 PM (KP)