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Ecosystem History: Florida Bay and the Southwest Coast

Project Proposal for 1998

Program: Fragile Environments
Project Title: Ecosystem History: Florida Bay and the Southwest Coast
Location of Study Area: Florida Bay and southwest coast, Dade County and Monroe County, Florida
Project Start Date: October 1, 1994
Project End Date: September 30, 1999
Project Number: 7220-37092
Project Chief: G. Lynn Brewster-Wingard
Region/Division/Team/Section: ER/GD/ERNGMT
Phone: 703-648-5352
Fax: 703-648-6953
Mailing Address:
Mail Stop 926A, USGS, Reston., VA 20192
Program Element(s)/Task(s)
Element 5, Task 5.2
Collaborators, Clients:
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD): SFWMD is responsible for controlling the flow of fresh water through the canals, locks and water conservation areas from the Kissimmee River south to Florida Bay. Our data demonstrate how, salinity has changed in response to human alteration of the environment and to what extent these changes in salinity have affected the biota of Florida Bay. SFWMD is using this data to determine to what degree their actions; have affected the bay in the past, and to make informed decisions about freshwater output for the immediate future. We coordinate site location for coring with SFWMD to determine areas of particular research interest and collaborate with their marine ecologists. Project received S40,000 OFA from SFWMD in FY 97.
National Park Service (NPS): The NPS implementation plan states, the NPS "is responsible for protecting, preserving, and managing unique environments located within Park lands. The NPS cannot effectively manage the unique resources of Florida Bay unless it clearly understands the current physical, chemical, and biological processes of the Bay" (NPS, Everglades National Park, South Florida Natural Resources Center, Florida Bay Implementation Plan, August. 1994). Our data will provide insight into these processes and will allow NPS to make decisions about future use of resources in the Park- We will provide the park scientists with the data to establish the baseline goals of the restoration. Field work is coordinated through the Everglades National Park (ENP). ENP facilities on Key Largo are used in support of field work.
Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE): ACOE will have their plan in place by 2000 for the reconfiguration/restoration of the south Florida drainage system. This process involves prioritization of the most profoundly affected parts of the ecosystem, and requires an understanding of the effects of altered freshwater flow on Florida Bay. Our data will provide this information.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has responsibility under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act for the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary, which includes the 101/o of Florida Bay that is not encompassed within Everglades National Park They are particularly concerned with water quality issues, and how factors outside the Sanctuary affect the Lwing resources within the Sanctuary. Our research will provide data about the living resources in the northern portion of Florida Bay that could be . used as guidelines to establishing monitoring programs, and that could be used in modeling of ecosystem processes within the Bay. NOAA has provided logistical support by nialdng their facility at Key Largo available for our use. John Robbins, NOAA. collaborates with Chuck Holmes. USGS. on portions of the isotopic analyses necessary. for our research.
Florida Geological Survey (FGS), Department of Environmental Protection: FGS provides field support and access to cores drilled along the eastern margin of Florida Bay-, and use of their platform coring device may be arranged if USGS devices are otherwise deployed Thomas Scott, FGS, is conducting the sediment analysis for the modern monitoring portion of our study.
Florida Marine Research Institute (FMRI), Department of Environmental Protection: FMRI is responsible for compiling a meta-database on all ongoing research projects in south Florida. Our project has cooperated fidhl with Jill Trubey and Mike Dick, FMR], m compiling this database. Cooperative data exchange on benthic organisms in Florida Bay has occurred between our project and William Lyons, FMRI. Keys Marine Lab, Florida Institute of Oceanography (KML): KML provides logistical field support (at a cost to the project). Internal USGS Collaboration:- This project will be closely coordinated with Robert Halley (GD) and Ellen Prager's (GD) Sedimentation, Sea-Level Rise and Circulation in Florida Bay Project and Gene Shinn's (GD) 2 groundwater projects in the Florida Keys; field work will be coordinated and joint decisions on core sites "ill be made. Pb-2 10 dates will be obtained from Chuck Holmes (WRD). Florida Bay biotic data "ill be correlated to Debra Willard's (GD) onshore biotic data Terrestrial and Freshwater Ecosystems Project, to Scott Ishman's (GD) Biscayne Bay Ecosystem History Project, and Chuck Holmes' (WRD) Buttonwood Embankment Project.


Project Summary: Recent negative trends in the Florida Bay ecosystem have been attributed to human activities, however. neither the natural patterns of change, nor the pre-human baseline for the environment have been determined. The major objectives of this project are 1) to determine patterns of faunal and floral change over the last 150-200 years, and 2) to explore associations between biotic changes and anthropogenically-induced changes and/or natural changes in the physical environment. Environmental managers and policy makers responsible for restoring the Everglades ecosystem to a "natural state" can use these data to make economical and realistic decisions about restoration goals and to determine interim steps to ameliorate further damage to the ecosystem.

Project Justification: Project will provide the groups responsible for making restoration decisions with answers to the following questions: 1) What was the ecosystem like prior to human intervention? 2) What is the natural range of variation within the ecosystem? 3) Can recent changes within the ecosystem be correlated to human factors, to natural events, or to a combination of factors? The answers to these questions will allow the land managers and agencies responsible for the restoration to determine what is the baseline goal for the restoration; whether this goal is attainable; what human factors have had the greatest impact on the ecosystem: and to monitor the progress of the restoration effort as corrective alterations begin. This project addresses the goals of the Fragile Environments Program by providing impartial, high-quality, multi-disciplinary science to other federal, state. and local agencies that is directly applicable to the resolution of complex questions in the South Florida region- The project benefits the nation by providing realistic and attainable restoration goals, thereby potentially saving large amounts of money, and by contributing to the restoration of a unique and valuable national treasure.

Project Objectives: The project objectives are to determine changes in the biological, physical. and chemical parameters of the ecosystem over the last 150-200 years and to determine if these changes can be correlated to human intervention, to natural events, or to a combination of factors, thus establishing cause and effect relationships. By providing a detailed picture of changes in biodiversity, salinity, substrate, and nutrient supply prior to human intervention in the south Florida ecosystem we can establish the natural range of variation that exists within the system and we can determine what the baseline goals of the restoration should be. Analysis of the data post-human intervention, and comparison of these data with the pre-human history data, allows us to determine the degree to which human activity has influenced the recent negative trends seen in Florida Bay. Natural variation can be filtered out, thus our project can prevent restoration managers from attempting to fix what may, in part, be a natural phenomenon.

Overall Strategy, Study Design, and Planned Major Products: This project is one component in an interdisciplinary study of the ecosystem history of Florida Bay, A number of USGS scientists. and scientists from other agencies, arc examining a series of shallow cores (~1-2 m) collected from Florida Bay, Our component of this research is to examine the fauna and flora present in these cores and to conduct geochemical analyses of the benthic faunal shells. Pb-210 analysis provides the age of the core samples. Twenty monitoring sites have been established in Florida Bay that are sampled twice a year to determine the environmental preferences of the living benthic fauna. These data on living benthic species, coupled with geochemical analyses of the shells. allow us to use dovmcore changes in the distribution of the biota to interpret downcore changes in the physical and chemical parameters of the environment. such as salinity or substrate. The benthic faunal data are compiled with analyses of planktic flora. to examine the history of planktic blooms. nutrient supply. and currents. and with pollen to determine corresponding changes in the terrestrial ecosystem of southern Florida. Changes in biodiversity, salinity, substrate, and nutrient supply are plotted against time and compared to known human or natural events to determine cause and effect relationships. The data from all Florida Bay cores will be integrated to search for regional patterns of change and data from Florida Bay will be correlated to onshore data and to Biscayne Bay (Ecosystems History: Terrestrial and Fresh Water Ecosystem of Southern Florida Project and Ecosystems History: Biscayne Bay and the Southeast Coast Project). Results of the research will be presented in the form of reports and journal articles.


Overall: Fauna and flora will be analyzed from a series of Pb-210 dated shallow cores collected in Florida Bay. Core data wi11 be compared to data from modem sampling sites within Florida Bay. (See attached map for location of modem monitoring sites and cores.) Knowledge of environmental preferences of living fauna allow-s interpretation of the downcore salinity, substrate and nutrient conditions in the past. Data on each core and the modem monitoring sites are made available through Open File Reports, the USGS meta-database, the Florida Marine Research Institute's meta-database, and upon request. Cores are retained by Bob Halley and Chuck Holmes. Processed faunal and floral samples are retained at the USGS in Reston. Samples from each core are shared by a number of USGS projects and many products are collaborative in nature (see list of collaborators above).

FY 97:

1. Abstract for USGS Ft Lauderdale Meeting (Brewster-Wingard responsible), available for review June 97, to clients August 97
2. Field work to collect samples from modern monitoring sites, July 97
3. Open File Report on Russell Bank Core (Brewster-Wingard responsible), available for review August 97, to clients Fall 97
4. USGS Meeting, Ft. Lauderdale, August 97
5. Report on modern monitoring site samples collected in FY 96 (Brewster-Wingard responsible), available for review August 97, to clients Fall 97
6. Journal article for special volume of Estuaries, (Brewster-Wingard responsible), available for review August 97, to clients 98
7. Abstract for Paleoecology Workshop, Fall 97, (Brewster-Wingard responsible), available for review August 97, to clients Fall 97

FY 98:

1. South Florida Ecosystem Initiative Paleoecology Workshop.
2. Outline for manuscript on synthesis of results from cores collected for SFWMD contract, due to client November 97 (Brewster-Wingard responsible)
3. Field work to collect samples from modem monitoring sites, February 98
4. Manuscript on species analysis results for SFWMD contract, available for review Spring 98, due to client April 98 (Brewster-Wingard responsible)
5. Presentation of materials from synthesis for SFWMD contract at workshop, May 98
6. Open File Report on Pass Key Core, due FY 98 (responsibility to be assigned), available for review Spring 98. to clients Summer 98
7. Field work to collect samples from modem monitoring sites, July 98
8. Reports on additional cores and samples collected in FY 97 and 98 (responsibility to be assigned)
9. Abstracts for scientific meetings

FY 99:

1. Field work to collect samples from modem monitoring sites, February 99
2. Final synthesis articles on all cores and samples examined to date (Brewster-Wingard responsible). available for review by Spring 99
3. Color brochure for distribution to the general public. perhaps through ENP
4. Field work to collect samples from modem monitoring sites, July 99
5. Abstracts for scientific meetings

Planned Deliverables/Products: Open File Reports are generated for each core as the analysis of that core is completed. A journal article for a special volume of Estuaries dedicated to Florida Bay research is planned for the end of FY 97, to be published sometime in 98. A summary manuscript will be given to SFWMD including all cores processed to date under our contract with them; the outline for the manuscript is due November 97, and the final manuscript in April 98. At the conclusion of the project. a synthesis manuscript will be generated on all cores analyzed to date. This product may integrate data from the Terrestrial, Biscayne Bay, and Buttonwood Embankment Ecosystems History projects and other projects working in Florida Bay to present a picture of the changes that have occurred in the entire South Florida Ecosystem over time. In addition, a colorful brochure or booklet is planned that would present the ecosystem history of the region to the general public-, this publication would be ideal for distribution by Everglades National Park- Abstracts for scientific meetings will be submitted as the opportunities arise throughout the duration of the project.

Planned Outreach Activities: Data are shared with our clients and collaborators (see list below) as soon as analyses are complete. Meetings provide the opportunity to discuss results, share data, and plan additional work strategies. A paleoecolo&v workshop is planned for the Fall of 97 to coordinate efforts among the Ecosystem History research group and to assure the needs of the client agencies are being addressed.

Prior Accomplishments in Proposed Area of Work:

New Directions, Expansion of Continuing Project (if applicable): We have begun expansion of our modem monitoring effort to the central and western portions of Florida Bay over the next fiscal year. The western area har, been the site of many of the recent phytoplankton blooms. and the new theory of the potential input from groundwater (the "river of sand") in the western bay has heightened interest in the history of this area.


Accomplishments and Outcomes, Including Outreach: We have completed the analyses of three cores from the Florida Bay ecosystem, and two from the fringe environments (Buttonwood Embankment Project- Chuck Holmes, PI and Terrestrial and Freshwater Ecosystem [fislory, Debra Willard, PI). Our results show contrasting patterns of salinity and biodiversity in Florida Bay pre- and post- 1900. Natural variations occurred in the Bz- prior to 1900, but the average diversity and the average salinity were lower prior to the turn of the century. These results agree with the work done by colleagues at University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Our specific accomplishments for FY 97 to date include the following: Completed OFR on modem monitoring site samples collected in 1995 Presented data at USGS Geologic Division Seminar series, November 97 Attended and presented a paper at the Florida Bay Science Conference, December 97 Collected modem monitoring site samples for dry season, February 97 Presented data at the request of the Director's Office to 17 intems of the SABIT Program (Special American Business Internship Training Program), sponsored by the US Department of Commerce Completed the preliminary. analysis of Russell Bank 19B Completed the processing of Pass Key Core for benthic fauna Continued providing material to Robert Halley for isotopic analyses of shells Presented data at a Geological Society of Washington Meeting, April 97 Attended a planning session for the Paleoecology workshop, planned for Fall 97

Deliverables, Products Completed: Brewster-Wingard- G.L., Ishman, S.E., Edwards, L.E., and Willard, D.A., 1996, Preliminary report on the distribution of modem fauna and flora at selected sites in north-central and north-eastern Florida Bay: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 96-732, 3 4 p. Brewster-Wingard, G.L., Ishman, S.E., Willard, D.A., Halley, R. B., and Holmes, C.W. 1996, The biotic record of change in Florida Bay and the south Florida Ecosystem: Program and Abstracts 1996 Florida Bay Science Conference. Key Largo, FL (Dec. 10-12, 1996), p. 25-26.


Required Expertise:

                                             FY 97      FY 98    FY 99
    Molluscan analyst                          1           1        1
    Benthic Foraminiferal analyst              1           1        1
    Ostracode analyst                          1           1        1     
    Pollen analyst                             1           1        1 
    Diatom specialist                          1           1        1
    Biogeochemist                              1           1        1 
    Geochronologist                            1           1        1 
    Charcoal analyst                                       1        1
    Calcareous faunal processors               1           4        4
    Palynologic processors                     1                    2

Names of Key Project Staff:

                                                            FY 97   FY 98   FY 99
Molluscan analyst Lynn Brewster-Wingard ( ( ( Benthic Foraminiferal analyst Scott Ishman ( ( ( Ostracode analyst Elly Brouwers ( ( ( Pollen analyst Debra Willard ( ( ( Diatom specialist Laura Pyle ( ( ( Biogeochemist Gary Dwyer ( ( ( Geochronologist Charles Holmes ( ( ( Charcoal analyst David Verardo ( ( Calcareous faunal processors Rob Stamm ( ( ( Steve Wandrei ( ( Jill D'Ambrosio ( Ian Graham ( Kristi Alger ( ( Lauren Hewitt ( ( ( Palynologic processors Lisa Weimer ( ( Neil Weibel (

Major Equipment/Facility Needs: None

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