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publications > ofr > ecosystem history of southern and central biscayne bay > abstract
Ecosystem History of Southern and Central Biscayne Bay: Summary Report on Sediment Core AnalysesU.S. Geological Survey Open File Report 03-375
September 15, 2003
During the last century, the environs of Biscayne Bay have been greatly affected by anthropogenic alteration through urbanization of the Miami/Dade County area. The sources, timing, delivery, and quality of freshwater flow into the Bay have been changed by construction of a complex canal system that controls movement of water throughout south Florida. Changes in shoreline and sub-aquatic vegetation and marine organisms have been observed and changes in water delivery are believed to be the cause.
Current restoration goals are attempting to restore natural flow of fresh water into Biscayne and Florida Bays and to restore the natural fauna and flora, but first we need to determine pre-alteration baseline conditions in order to establish targets and performance measures for restoration. This research is part of an ongoing study designed to address the needs of the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project (BBCW) of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
By establishing the natural patterns of temporal change in salinity, water quality, vegetation, and benthic fauna in Biscayne Bay and the nearby wetlands over the last 100- 500 years the USGS, in collaboration with our partners, will provide the data necessary to set realistic targets to achieve the BBCW Project goals.
Six cores from three sites in Biscayne Bay were collected in April 2002 for multidisciplinary multi-proxy analyses. This report details the results of these analyses and compares the 2002 cores to cores collected in 1997. The following are our significant findings to date:
These findings represent a first step towards the project's goal to reconstruct the history of Biscayne Bay and they provide us with a working model to be tested at other sites. It is clear from our findings that Biscayne Bay has been a dynamic environment over the last 500 years, with natural changes occurring in salinity and benthic habitats. However, several significant changes have occurred in the 20th century: 1) increased stabilization of marine salinities; 2) declines in seagrass in central Biscayne Bay; 3) dramatic changes in molluscan abundance and diversity in central Biscayne Bay. The question remains - how do we better differentiate natural cycles of change from anthropogenic change within these observed trends?
The preliminary implications from our research are that changes in salinity and benthic habitats have occurred naturally in Biscayne Bay on inter-decadal to centennial scales, perhaps due to climatic changes, changes in sea level, bank migrations, or a combination of factors. However, further work needs to be done to determine which components of change in the 20th century are human-induced and which are natural. By examining the historical records preserved in the sediments of Biscayne Bay, we can provide restoration trust agencies with the information necessary to set realistic targets and performance measures for Biscayne Bay.
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