The Everglades of south Florida, USA is truly a unique ecosystem. The ecological value of this ecosystem is reflected in the approval by Congress in 2000 of nearly US$8 billion for its restoration. And restoration is needed: the changes that have occurred in south Florida over the past century have been dramatic. They include the growth of large cities along Florida's coasts, the development of agriculture in the region, and the construction of canals, levees, dikes, roads, and other structures to move water and people and to protect people and buildings from floods.
Restoring the ecosystem—or even successfully preventing further degradation—is an enormous and exciting challenge. There is no successful model to follow anywhere. Many components of the restoration plan depend on relatively new technologies, untried at the scale envisioned for the Everglades. A host of financial, political, social, environmental, ecological, administrative, and legal challenges make the effort even more complex. Because of this, the National Research Council was asked to provide advice to the national and state, and local agencies organizing the restoration. This led to the creation of the Committee on Restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, which spent five years studying the system and its potential restoration, and wrote the seven reports listed below. Highlights of the first six reports can be found in a summary publication "The Science of Restoring the Everglades" [download summary].
At the heart of the restoration effort is storage of water at times of surplus for use during times of deficit. The first report examined plans to store water underground on a large scale using a technique called "aquifer storage and recovery," or ASR [view report]. A follow-up report examined plans for a pilot project to study regional and ecological issues associated with ASR [view report]. A broader report focused not only on ASR, but also on other water storage options including natural lakes, abandoned quarries, and above-ground reservoirs [view report]. This report also looks at issues such as timing of land purchases and the sequencing of the many components of restoration. The unique, ecologically important, patterned landscape of central Everglades, characterized by ridges, sloughs, and tree islands, is aligned with present and past flow directions. Another report looks at evidence that this landscape's continued existence depends on the speed and direction of water flow [view report].
Water quality is a major issue in the Everglades, because of the influx of nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural lands. High phosphorus inflows are the primary concern in most of the Everglades, but excess nitrogen combined with hypersalinity due to decreased freshwater flows through the southern Everglades may be problematical in Florida Bay [view report].
The overall restoration plan requires a flexible, experimental, adaptive approach to ecosystem management due to the many uncertainties about the system behavior. Such an approach is examined in detail in a report on the challenges to adaptive management and assessment in the Everglades [view report]. Overall, in a project of this magnitude it is critical to fund science that will improve the likelihood that restoration goals will be met. One of the Everglades science programs is analyzed from this perspective [view report].
Books Related to Everglades Restoration
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