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Interrelation of Everglades Hydrology and Florida Bay Dynamics to Ecosystem Processes and Restoration in South Florida

Project Proposal for 2001


Project chief(s):
Raymond W. Schaffranek (Hydrology Coordinator); Thomas J. Smith III (Ecology Coordinator); Charles W. Holmes (History Coordinator).

RWS - rws@usgs.gov;
TJS - tom_j_smith@usgs.gov;
CWH - cholmes@usgs.gov
RWS - (703) 648-5891;
TJS - (305) 348-1267;
CWH - (727) 893-3100
RWS - (703) 648-5484;
TJS - (305) 348-4096;
CWH - (727) 803-2032
Mail address:
RWS - National Center MS 430, Reston, VA 20192;
TJS - OE Bldg., Rm. 148, FIU, Miami, FL 33199;
CWH - Center for Coastal & Marine Geology, St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Project title: Interrelation of Everglades Hydrology and Florida Bay Dynamics to Ecosystem Processes and Restoration in South Florida.
Project start date: October 1, 1998
Project end date: September 30, 2001

Program(s): Place-Based Studies
Ecosystem: South Florida
Task/Project: Task 1/Project 1.3

Project summary: Changes in the wetland and upland ecosystems of south Florida have been attributed to environmental alteration over the last century. However, the nature of biotic and hydrologic changes and their cause and effect relationship have not been documented scientifically. This synthesis project is integrating historical, hydrological, and ecological findings of ongoing scientific investigations within the Southern Inland and Coastal Systems (SICS) study area encompassing the transition zone between the wetlands of Taylor Slough and C-111 canal and nearshore embayments of Florida Bay. The purpose of this interdisciplinary effort is to define and document the interrelation of Everglades hydrology and the dynamics of Florida Bay on ecosystem response to past alterations, both natural and human imposed, to help guide future restoration actions.

In the historical component, floral and faunal records are being analyzed and correlated with the hydrologic record for the last 70 years as determined by isotopic analysis. This effort supplies important information, such as the timing of sea level rise and storm events in the northern transition zone, for process-based studies (both in freshwater and coastal environments) and for ecological history research. The historical component will also provide detailed data on which to hindcast environmental history over the last 50 to 70 years for development and analysis of restoration scenarios using the hydrologic model.

In the hydrological component, past regional hydroperiods are being reconstructed from water-level records and numerical simulations to investigate correlations to natural and imposed changes. Hydrologic results from process studies within the SICS study area have been integrated into the development of a model for use in investigating the hydrologic cycle of the coupled wetland and tidal ecosystem. Topographic and hydraulic measurements have provided the most up-to-date data for depicting the SICS region as well as the empirical data needed to develop the mathematical expressions and correlations for representing the relevant hydrologic processes, e.g., vegetative resistance, wind forcing, evapo-transpiration, ground-water/surface-water interactions, etc. The SICS model will be used to evaluate interrelationships between key hydrologic processes and dynamic forces controlling flow conveyance in and through the Taylor Slough wetlands, along the coastal mangrove fringe of Florida Bay, and through the Buttonwood embankment that delineates the wetland and tidal ecosystems. Hindcast simulations of historical flow events will provide information on flow patterns and hydroperiods for ecological analyses.

In the follow-up phase, results of ecological studies, both historical and present day, being conducted by USGS researchers and ENP biologists, will be incorporated as an integral component of the synthesis (see Bibliography). These ecological studies will provide for a more precise calibration of extant vegetation communities based on analysis of historical aerial photos from the study area dating from 1927. These data will provide needed calibration to the history component of the synthesis. At present, an ecological simulation model of freshwater Everglades fish communities (ALFISH) that has been developed as part of BRD's Across Trophic Level System Simulation (ATLSS) program is being expanded to include the mangrove forests along the coast of ENP. The ATLSS modeling team requires the collaboration and assistance of the SICS hydrology modeling team to develop the necessary hydrologic inputs for this new landscape level, estuarine fish model. BRD researchers in south Florida currently operate a series of hydrological monitoring stations and maintain numerous long-term vegetation plots within the SICS area. These data will be crucial for the expansion of the ATLSS modeling domain. Importantly, the resolution of the SICS hydrological model and vegetation overlays are at finer landscape grid scales (305m versus 2km) than ATLSS and thus the SICS input should help improve the ATLSS model resolution. The ATLSS models have been an integral part of assessing the various restoration scenarios proposed under the Restudy. Findings of the Hydrology team and numerical output from the SICS model will be used as input for ecological scenario testing. Results from the History team will prove invaluable in providing baseline information concerning past conditions that have changed due to hydrologic alterations over the past 70 years. The baseline data can be used as targets against which to measure the results of both hydrological and ecosystem simulations for purposes of evaluating the effectiveness of various resource management alternatives.

Problem statement: The vast wetland ecosystems (both freshwater and coastal estuarine) of south Florida have undergone numerous human disturbances, ranging from alteration of hydroperiod, fire history, and drainage patterns through implementation of the canal system to expansion of agricultural activity to the introduction of exotic species. Presently there is a hydrologic model that is being developed to answer questions concerning water flow to various parts of the Florida Ecosystem, particularly through the northern transition zone to Florida Bay. This project will reconstruct the timing of the dramatic changes within region in the historical component, reconstruct past hydroperiods and investigate their correlation to key human-imposed and natural impacts in the hydrological component, and identify the linkage of noted hydrological changes to shifts in biotic species in the ecological component.

Project objectives and strategy: The primary objective of this synthesis project is to produce a comprehensive report that integrates the findings of individual process studies be they hydrological, ecological or historical. Key processes and their interactions will be documented and resource management alternatives will be identified wherever possible.

Scientific objectives of this synthesis project will be to:

  1. Develop an accurate representation of the pre-disturbance (>>1900) conditions within the SICS study area. This will be based on vegetation history as derived from pollen and peat petrography in short-lived isotopically-dated cores. Additional information on environmental history will be ascertained from historical records plus geochemical analysis of these cores. Analysis of archival aerial photographs will be conducted to confirm the most recent changes (>1927). Hydrologic conditions can be "hindcast" using the SICS model. Specific tasks are to: 1) determine the extent of vegetation changed over the south Florida region since 1850 with emphasis on the past 70 years; 2) establish the timing of any such changes and determine whether they are correlated with onset of any human activities in the region; 3) determine whether such changes are manifested across the Everglades system (i.e., while increased abundance of cattails provide striking evidence of changes in hydroperiod and other edaphic characteristics; 4) determine the baseline level of variability in biodiversity and vegetation distribution prior to human activity in the region; and 5) provide the hydrological model target data on which to hindcast the hydrologic regime of south Florida.
  2. Define current conditions within the SICS area using the suite of hydrological and ecological models available (SICS and ATLSS) plus results of the numerous process-oriented studies supplemented by historical baseline information. Information regarding flow paths, hydrologic fluxes, vegetation properties, faunal groups, etc. will be documented.
  3. Identify the most critical parameters, especially those subject to management, that regulate the system and control hydrological and biotic linkages. This will be accomplished by conducting extensive sensitivity analyses using the SICS model coupled with the appropriate ATLSS models or their derivatives, in particular the new estuarine fish model. The interrelation of critical parameters on the structure of the linked hydrological/ecological system will be evaluated.
  4. Produce a "circular" style report summarizing the results of 1-3 above. The audience for this circular will be the resource management community, informed lay public and governmental officials at all levels.

Potential impacts and major products: The major product of this synthesis effort will be a report that clearly describes, both historical and present day, hydrological and ecological aspects of the SICS ecosystem, defines the range and sensitivity of hydrological conditions that affect their ecological interrelationship, and identifies those conditions that are amenable to either active or passive management to sustain or improve the ecological health of the system. A clear, succinct, statement of the cause and effect relationships, whether hydrological, ecological, or management orientated, which are operating within the SICS study area will be of great management benefit. We anticipate that other products, such as traditional peer reviewed papers, will also be developed and disseminated by individual scientists either directly involved or otherwise contributing to this synthesis project.

FY 1999 scientific accomplishments: A series of cores have been collected throughout southern Florida to document the floral, faunal, and hydroperiod history of the region in detail over the last 150 years with emphasis on the last 50 years. The particular focus is the northern transition zone of Taylor Slough, Joe Bay, Long Sound and Buttonwood Embankment regions. Approximately 50 cores will be used for analysis of floral, faunal, and isotopic analysis; these cores will be dated using short lived isotopes and 14C The organic material from the cores contains paleoclimatic signals inherent in the hydrogen, oxygen and sulfur isotopic composition. These isotopes record the characteristic of source of the water in which the plants grew. The fauna analysis records the type and composition of the plants within the region and the dates place these characteristics within a temporal framework.

Depending on concentration of various floral and faunal components, sampling intervals may be as closely spaced as 1 cm, which may provide resolution on a semi-decadal scale. The concentration of wind-blown charcoal, which is the measure of local to regional fire history, also is being measured in selected cores to establish the accumulation rate of charcoal and, ultimately, to assess regional and temporal trends in burning history. The data will be placed into a GIS setting that will be accomplished by compositing aerial photographs on a decadal time scale beginning with 1930. These data overlays will be available for hindcasting with the hydrologic simulation.

A number of the permanent mangrove vegetation plots within the SICS study area have been re-sampled. Analyses of these data will give a short-term picture (five years) of vegetation change in the mangrove transition area. Analysis of vegetation changes based on historical aerial photographs (dating to 1927) has begun. Photo sets from areas where the sediment cores were collected are being assembled and archived in digital format.

Compilation and evaluation of water level records, generation of a land-surface elevation grid using recently collected GPS-survey data, and analysis of interpolation methods for water-surface profile determination to re-construction hydroperiods have been initiated using GIS techniques. Water-level records from 1995 to present for 30 stations within the SICS study area have been compiled, analyzed, and formatted for GIS input and analysis. A land-surface grid has been generated from the NMD/GPS helicopter survey data to provide the coverage needed to produce hydroperiod maps. Inundation depths have been computed for selected periods using GIS techniques and the results have compared favorably with measured depths during intensive flow-transect measurements conducted for SICS model development. The SICS model has been further refined and enhanced using the latest topographic and hydraulic data, improved ground-truth vegetation classifications, and recent hydrologic process-study findings. A number of modifications have been made in response to internal and external reviews of the model development. A nine-month simulation has been conducted to demonstrate hydroperiod changes over a wet and dry season during which flow velocities and water levels were available for model verification. Discussions were held with the ATLSS group and a demonstration of the integration of SICS and ATLSS simulations was planned and initiated.

FY 1999 products completed:
Schaffranek, R.W. 1999, Hydrologic Studies in Support of South Florida Ecosystem Restoration" Presented at 26th Annual ASCE Water Resources Planning and Management Division Conference, June 6-9, 1999, Tempe, AZ.

Holmes, C.W. and Marot, M.E., 1999, Short lived isotopic chronology: Key to environmental modeling, American Association of Petroleum Geologist, Annual Meeting, San Antonio, TX.

Holmes, C.W. and Robbins, J.A., 1999, Determine the history of metal deposition in a subtropical ecosystem, 5th international Conference on the biogeochemistry of Trace elements, Vienna, Austria.

Holmes, C.W., Willard, D.E., Brewster-Wingard, L., and Marot, M., 1999, Developmental history of Florida Bay Carbonate Mounds, G.S.A. Annual Meeting, Denver, CO.

Holmes, C.W., Willard, D.E., Brewster-Wingard, L., and Marot, M., 1999, Buttownwood Embankment: the historical perspective on its role in northeastern Florida Bay sedimentary dynamics and hydrology, Florida Bay Meeting, December Key Largo, FL.

FY 1999 stakeholder meetings or other outreach activities:
The three Project Coordinators, as well as many of the individual study PIs participated at the South Florida Science Forum held from 17-19 May 1999. The PIs provided numerous abstracts for the official USGS Open-File Report.

PIs provided scientific findings for Biennial Report of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force.

Informal meetings have been held on two occasions between Project Coordinators and PIs with professional staff at Everglades National Park. The purpose of these meetings was to provide information to our clients and discuss ways and means of data sharing and access. An additional outreach meeting aimed specifically at vegetation mapping in the study region will be held with Park staff before the end of FY99.

Poster and brochure entitled "Science Integrated with Modeling for Improved Management—The Southern Inland and Coastal System Interdisciplinary Project of the USGS South Florida Ecosystem Program" prepared and displayed at the South Florida Restoration Science Forum, May 17-19, 1999, Boca Raton, FL.

Two technical sessions presenting ten papers on "Interdisciplinary Assessment of the Hydrology and Hydrologic Processes of the Southern Everglades Ecosystem" organized for 3rd IAHR International Symposium on Ecohydraulics, July 13-16, 1999, Salt Lake City, UT.

FY 2000 products completed or nearly completed:

Anderson, G.A., Nuttle, W.K., and Smith, T.J. III. 1999, Restoration of Sheetflow to Northeast Florida Bay: An Assessment of Structural Modifications to the C-111 Canal. Poster presented at 15th Biennial International Conference of the Estuarine Research Federation, September 25-30, 1999, New Orleans, LA.

Smith III, T.J. 1999. Physical forcings and vegetation patterns across mangrove / marsh ecotones in southwest Florida. Florida Bay and Adjacent marine Systems Science Conference. November 1-5, 1999. Key Largo, FL.

Ball, M.H., and Schaffranek, R.W., 2000, Abstract: Water-Surface Elevation and Water Depth Analysis Using a GIS Application, AGU Spring Meeting, Washington, DC, March 2000 (to be published in EOS).

"Mangrove Vegetation Change on Islands in Florida Bay," Poster presented at the Florida Bay and Adjacent Marine Systems Science Conference held November 1-5, 1999.

Holmes, C.W., Robbins, J.R., Halley, R.A., Bothner, M.E., Ten Brink, M., and Marot, M.E.,2000 in press, Sedimentary Dynamics of Florida Bay Mud Banks on a Decadal Scale: Invited Chapter in Wardlaw, B.R. (ed), Paleoecology of South Florida. Bulletins of American Paleontology. Director's Approval.

Ball, M.H., and Schaffranek, R.W., 2000, Poster: Water-Surface Elevation and Water Depth Mapping in the Southern Florida Everglades Using a GIS, ASCE Joint Conference on Water Resources Engineering and Water Resources Planning and Management, Minneapolis, MN, July 30-August 2, 2000.

Ball, M. H., and Schaffranek, R.W., 2000, A Time-Series Analysis of Inundation Depths in the Southern Florida Everglades, U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Investigations Report, September 2000.

Holmes, C., 2000, Historical Perspective of the Buttonwood Region and its Role in Ecology and Hydrology, U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report, April 2000.

Schaffranek, R.W., Smith, T. J. III, and Holmes, C., 2000, An Investigation into the Interrelation of Everglades Hydrology and Florida Bay Dynamics to South Florida Ecosystem Processes, U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet, September 2000.

Anderson, G.A., T.J. Smith III & W.K. Nuttle, 2000, Water Year 1997 Data Report for the Mangrove Hydrology Network. Florida / Caribbean Science Center, Gainesville, Fl.

Anderson, G.A., T.J. Smith III, 2000, Water Year 1998 Data Report for the Mangrove Hydrology Network. Florida / Caribbean Science Center, Gainesville, Fl.

Map of the extent of freshwater intrusion - Holmes

Fact Sheet on the influence of sea-level rise versus water supply (control) – Holmes

Holmes, C.W., Willard, D.E., Brewster-Wingard, L., and Marot, M., 2000, Buttonwood Embankment: the historical perspective on its role in northeastern Florida Bay sedimentary dynamics and hydrology, OFP 2000-XXX (in Review).

FY 2000 outreach & data delivery and use:
Poster and brochure entitled "Science Integrated with Modeling for Improved Management—The Southern Inland and Coastal System Interdisciplinary Project of the USGS South Florida Ecosystem Program" displayed at the Florida Bay and Adjacent Marine Systems Science Conference, Key Largo, FL, November 1-5, 1999.

Website for exchange of near real-time data made available for project scientists.

PIs (Smith & Schaffranek) participated in the "Standard Dataset Workshop" for the Science Program for Florida bay and Adjacent Marine Systems (16 March 2000). Provided hydrology data from individual SICS process and modeling studies to the Program Management Committee for Florida Bay. USGS data were contributed from studies by Patino (discharge into NE Florida Bay), Smith (Mangrove Hydrology Project), Schaffranek (flow velocities south of the C-111 canal) and Swain (SWIFT2D/SICS modeling). The data will be incorporated into the Uniform Modeling Dataset being developed pursuant to the Hobbie report. This dataset will be the standard used by USCOE, NPS, NOAA, SFWMD and university scientists in constructing hydrological models of Florida Bay.

FY 2001 deliverables/products:
Analysis of regression versus hydrologic modeling approaches to predict freshwater inflow and salinity regimes in northeast Florida Bay (Smith, Schaffranek, & Swain).

Recent changes in mangrove forest growth and productivity in Florida Bay (Smith).

Analyses of recent (1995-2000) hydroperiods in SICS study area (Schaffranek).

A case study demonstration of the integration potential of the SICS and ATLSS models (Schaffranek, Smith, & Swain).

Reconstruction of recent marsh vegetation based on historical aerial photographs (Smith & Holmes).

WORK PLAN (Time line FY 2000 to project end):
FY 2000 activities:
Complete chronology analysis for core collected in the Northern Border Region and for the cores from the coastal region of the Everglades: April 1999 to June 2000.

Analyze the organic sediment for pollen and isotopes to define the hydroperiods. The pollen distribution defines the region vegetation whereas the isotopic information defines the water types (marine, brackish or marine.) In combination, a very accurate history of the hydroperiods can be developed: April 1999 to June 2000.

Composite the aerial photographic data and other vegetative GIS products: October 1999 to September 2000.

Continue development of vegetation history, based on historical aerial photos, for each site where the history team has taken sediment core: October 1999 - September 2000.

Provide data from the BRD's "Mangrove Hydrology Network" in digital form to the SICS modeling team: October 1999 - September 2000.

Develop hydrological overlays and inputs for the new ATLSS estuarine fish model: October 1999 - June 2000.

Generate land-surface elevation grid from latest NMD helicopter GPS-survey data and correlate to interpolations of water level profile from hydrologic data to reconstruct historical hydroperiods in SICS study area: October 1999 - June 2000.

Compare and refine hydroperiod reconstruction from hydrological records using specific synoptic simulations conducted with the SICS model: January 2000 - September 2000.

Simulate flow patterns using input data sets provided or determined from past records for critical time periods identified by Historical or Ecological teams as being environmentally and(or) historically significant: April 2000 - September 2000.

New directions or major changes for FY 2001 (if applicable):
Given the funding history of this project, completion of the Circular report will be delayed one year. The lack of funding for the History component in FY2000 (Holmes) has hampered collaboration and produced a significant delay in production of historical findings needed to guide the ecological and hydrological analyses. As a direct result, additional time is required to complete the ecosystem history, finish the vegetation analysis, and fully develop the GIS techniques and SICS/ATLSS model linkages.

FY 2001 Activities:
Complete analysis of five years of mangrove forest growth from permanent plots with Florida Bay. June 2001.

Finish vegetation history from aerial photographs. September 2001.

Produce 5-year (1995-2000) hydroperiod maps using GIS techniques. September 2001.

Demonstrate ATLSS/SICS models linkage. September 2001.

Names and expertise of key project staff:

Projects currently supporting SICS & ATLSS programs:
Donald DeAngelis, BRD - manager, Across Trophic Level System Simulation program (ATLSS)
Greg Desmond, NMD - high-accuracy elevation determination
Ed German, WRD - evapotranspiration rates
Mark Hansen, GD - subtidal embayment bathymetry
Jud Harvey, WRD - ground-water/surface-water interactions
Charles Holmes, WRD - Buttonwood history & 210Pb dating
Harry Jenter, WRD - wind stress effects on flow
Harry Jenter, WRD - flow resistance effects of vegetation
John Jones, NMD - land characteristics from remote sensing
Eduardo Patino, WRD - discharge/salinity conditions at tidal inlets
Ken Rice, BRD - herpetology, crocodile and alligator biology
Nancy Rybicki, WRD - vegetation classification
Ray Schaffranek, WRD - canal/wetland flow transitions
Thomas J. Smith, BRD - wetlands ecology, freshwater and mangrove ecosystems
Eric Swain, WRD - SICS model development
Deb Willard, GD - vegetation history

Required expertise for which no individual has been identified:
Water-quality specialist in nutrient cycling and transport (FY99-FY01)
Technical report specialist (FY00-FY01)
General Biologist (Contract) (FY00-FY01)
Ecosystem History Assistant (FY99-FY01)


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Craighead, F.C. & V.C. Gilbert. 1962. The effects of Hurricane Donna on the vegetation of south Florida. Quart. J. Fla. Acad. Sci. (now Florida Scientist): 25: 1-28.

Davis, J.H., Jr. 1940. The ecology and geologic role of mangroves in Florida. Papers of the Tortugas Laboratory, 32: 303-412.

Egler, F.E. 1952. The southeast saline Everglades vegetation, Florida and its management. Vegetatio Acta Geobotanica (now Vegetatio), 3: 213-265.

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Herndon, A. & D. Taylor. 1986. Response of Muhlenbergia Prairie to Repeated Burning: Changes in Above-ground Biomass. South Florida Natural Resources Center, Everglades National Park, Report SFRC-86/05.

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Small, J.K. 1904. Report upon further explorations of southern Florida. J. NY Botanical Garden 5: 157-164.

Small, J.K. 1907. Explorations of south Florida. J. NY Botanical Garden 8: 23-28.

Smith III, T.J., J.H. Hudson, M.B. Robblee G.V.N. Powell & P.J. Isdale. 1989. Freshwater flow from the Everglades to Florida Bay: A historical reconstruction based on fluorescent banding in the coral Solenastrea bournoni. Bull. Mar. Sci. 44: 274-282.

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