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Southwest Florida Coastal and Wetland Systems Monitoring

Project Proposal for 2001

Continuing Project Work Plan - FY 2001

Project title: Southwest Florida Coastal and Wetland Systems Monitoring
Project number: 67800
Geographic area: Southwest coastal estuaries and wetlands of Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve (Whitewater Bay to Ten Thousand Islands).
Project Start Date: October 1999
Project End Date: September 2003
Project Chief: Eduardo Patino
Email: epatino@usgs.gov
Phone - (941) 275-8448
Fax – (941) 275-6820
Mail Address: 3745 Broadway, Suite 301, Fort Myers, Florida, 33901

Scope and Objectives:

Hydrologic information throughout the Everglades ecosystem is key to the development of restoration strategies and for future evaluation of restoration results. There are significant hydrologic information gaps throughout the Everglades wetlands and estuaries that need to be addressed, particularly along Florida’s southwest coast. Among these gaps are flow, water level, and salinity data. This project, in conjunction with the Everglades National Park’s (ENP) marine monitoring network, will provide water level, salinity, and flow information at key points within the mangrove zone along the southwest coast of ENP. This project will also include a wetland component designed to provide water level, salinity, and "sheetflow" velocity at selected points within the "sloughs" (flow paths) flowing into the estuaries. Hydrodynamic modelers of the Everglades, Florida Bay, southwest coast estuaries, and other adjacent marine systems, will use these data to calibrate and verify models describing flow patterns throughout ENP.

The objective of this project is to describe the salinity patterns in relation to freshwater inflows to the estuaries and tidal exchange with the Gulf of Mexico, to provide support for the USGS Tides and Inflows in the Mangroves of the Everglades model (TIME) and to programs like the Everglades Long Term Ecological Research (LTER). Additionally, other federal and state agencies, universities, and local institutions conducting research in the area will be give access to all the information generated though this study. This study will quantify water discharge, describe hydrodynamic characteristics of estuarine rivers of southwest Everglades National Park, and provide necessary information for the development and calibration of the TIME hydrodynamic model. The data collection network established through this project will include the following types and number of stations:

  • A maximum of six estuarine-river sites will be selected to monitor stage, flow, salinity and temperature, based on TIME model needs and other ecological work being done or planned within the study area. These sites will include the continuation of three currently existing stations.
  • Four additional sites will be instrumented to monitor stage and salinity in order to provide maximum boundary coverage for the TIME model, in conjunction with ENP’s marine monitoring network. These sites will be located at creeks flowing into the estuaries, within the "mixing" zone, with at least one located near shore in the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • A maximum of three sites will be located within the sloughs flowing into the southwest coast estuaries to monitor stage, salinity (Sp. Conductance), temperature, and velocity in the wetlands.
  • All water surface elevations will be referenced to arbitrary local datum and will not represent NGVD-29 nor NAVD-88 elevations.

The study area encompasses the estuarine and wetland regions from White Water Bay near Flamingo to Chokoloskee Bay near Everglades City as shown in figure 1. The results of this study will provide information on freshwater inflows and salinity trends, effects of weather systems, and on how Everglades restoration projects affect the discharge and water quality of the estuarine ecosystem.


The following sections describe the methods and techniques used for collection and anal-ysis of all field data in order to describe freshwater flow patterns along the estuaries of southwest Florida. Data collection at all flow sites includes continuous (15-minute interval) mea-surements of water level, water velocity, salinity, temperature, and calibration measurements of discharge (no discharge measurements at wetland sites). Data collection at water level sites will include continuous (15-minute interval) mea-surements of water level, salinity, temperature. Most continuous data are recorded and transmit-ted every 4 hours by way of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) into the database of the USGS Miami Subdistrict office. Stations at which transmission of data is not possible not required, data will be logged, retrieved, and stored into the database of the USGS Miami Subdistrict office.

Data collection

Flow stations:
  • Estuarine sites will be instrumented with water level, salinity, temperature, velocity sensors. Velocity data will be collected with acoustic Doppler instruments, calibrated with the use of an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP), and used in the computation of discharge. Monthly discharge measurements will be done at all new sites during the first year and bi-monthly thereafter for rating verification purposes. Water quality data will be collected at two depths in the water column.
  • Wetland sites will be instrumented with water level, salinity, temperature, velocity sensors. Velocity data will be collected with acoustic Doppler instruments. Water quality data will be recorded at one depth in the water column. No discharge will be computed for these sites.

Salinity stations:

  • Salinity stations will include the collection of water level, salinity, and temperature. At least one of these stations will be located out along the open-water boundary in order to provide tidal information for the TIME model. Water quality data will be collected at one or two depths, depending on site location.
  • Salinity surveys (profiles) will also be done along the main rivers, from the open waters near the mouth of the rivers on up to the "mixing zone", as far up into the freshwater regions as possible. These data will provide insight on the salinity gradients in relation to seasonal and event related freshwater inflows.

Data Analysis

  • Discharge data will be computed using established area and velocity ratings and provided to TIME model and other researchers in the best usable format for its use within the model and/or ecological research within the area. "Low-pass" filters will be used if necessary, to extract net flows from the tidal signature at all flow sites.
  • Wetland velocity, along with stage and Q/W data will be quality assured and provided to TIME model researchers for model development and verification.
  • All USGS and ENP salinity data will be analyzed in relation to freshwater flows across Tamiami Trail in order to describe the effects of water management practices on the overall salinity of the southwest coast estuaries.

Restoration Benefits:

Information from this study will provide necessary information on freshwater flow from Everglades National Park (ENP) and Big Cypress Preserve (BCP), to the estuaries of southwest Florida. Much of this information has not been previously available to natural resource managers. Such information is critical for quantitatively determining the freshwater flows throughout the southwestern part of ENP and BCP. The water level, water velocity, flow, salinity, and temperature data can be used in conjunction with data from many other ongoing efforts to help determine the effects of changes in water deliveries to ENP and BCP, and into the estuaries of southwest Florida. Flow is closely related to sediment transport, salinity, and chemical characteristics of these estuaries, which in turn, have great influence on the biology of the area. Additionally, this information is and will continue to be used as input to hydrodynamic models of ENP and coastal areas, and for water-budget determinations for south Florida. Such models and computations will be substantially more dependable and reliable because of the availability of water level, flow, and salinity data from this project. In turn, decisions regarding restoration activities based on scenario testing from such models and computations are also more reliable. As the restoration process proceeds, it will be critical to continue monitoring flow patterns in order to understand the effects of changing water supply quantity and source into the wetlands of ENP and BCP.

Collaborators, clients:

The primary users of information generated by this study are the following agencies and institutions:

  • USGS -
    • TIME model calibration and verification using water level, discharge, and salinity data generated by this project.
    • Vegetation and hydrology of land-margin ecosystems in south Florida.
  • ENP -
    • Monitoring network enhancement. Addition of water level, flow, salinity, and temperature data collection along the southwest coast estuaries, complementing existing ENP Marine Monitoring Network.
  • NOAA -
    • Florida Bay Circulation and Exchange Study
  • FIU -
    • Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) study of the everglades.
    • Water Quality Monitoring Network.

WORK PLAN for FY 2001

Activities, Deliverables and Products:

  • Take over three estuarine river stations from Tampa’s project that ended in Fiscal Year 2000. Oct. - Dec. 2000.
  • Procurement of instrumentation and hardware for the construction of all new estuarine and wetland stations. Oct. - Dec. 2000.
  • Construction and instrumentation of new sites within the SW coast estuaries. Nov. 2000 - Feb. 2001.
  • Continue ADCP discharge measurements for the verification of velocity instrument calibration ratings at existing sites and begin process at new sites. Dec. 2000 - Sept. 2001.
  • Begin collection of salinity data along selected transects. Jan - Sept. 2001.
  • Construction and instrumentation of new sites within the SW coast wetlands. Jan. - Mar. 2001.
  • Begin computations and updating of records for distribution through the program’s data exchange web page. Jan. - Sept. 2001.

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