7

Conclusion

The Florida Keys Carrying Capacity Study is an ambitious effort,and this committee fully appreciates the technical and policy challengesfacing the study team and sponsors. The challenge of creating a comprehensive,flexible, and reliable assessment tool is compounded by a highlycharged political atmosphere surrounding land development and environmentalissues in the Keys. The study team is to be commended for its effortsto date and the many areas where progress has been made in the CarryingCapacity Analysis Model and the overall study.

The committee notes that this brief interim report is based primarilyon presentations made during a two-day workshop that attempted todescribe a major activity still in progress. The committee appreciatesthe cooperation and explanations offered by the study team and recognizesthat its exposure to the assessment tool has been limited. The commentsand advice provided are offered in a spirit of constructive criticismwith the understanding that many changes and improvements to theassessment tool may already have been made since the workshop.

The major concerns raised by the committee at this time, along withsome suggested remedies, are summarized below. Many more detailedobservations and recommendations are contained throughout the textof the report.

The concept of creating an assessment tool to guide the developmentand environmental future of the Florida Keys is intriguing; however,the goal established for this study, “to develop a model capableof determining the ability of the Keys ecosystem to withstand allimpacts of additional land development activities,” contains ambiguitiesand imprecision that must be addressed. Some expectations for theKeys Study exceed current scientific understanding and modeling capabilities.Much of the terminology employed in the scope of work is also unclear.For example, the term “carrying capacity” is not easy to define or measure. Nevertheless,the term could be incorporated into the planning tool if its usageand the ways it is to be measured are defined carefully and clearly.

Although many of the goals set and words used were not chosen bythe study team members, nevertheless, they should quickly developa clear and consistent terminology for the study and work to educateall interested parties about the inherent limitations of this ambitiouseffort. By reviewing some of the published literature on ecologicaland social system modeling and obtaining more regular input fromthe expert advisors, the study team can help explain how the finalproduct can best be used by land use planners, other decision makers,and the public in the Florida Keys.

Despite these limitations, the study team's efforts in data collection and process modeling should still bevery useful. Rather than creating a fully predictive numerical simulationmodel the study team should aim to create an “impact assessment tool” that can be used to help visualize the consequences of various landdevelopment scenarios on the Keys' environmental and social systems.Such a tool could be used in analyzing future development scenariosand could be a powerful aid in helping decision makers understandhow the Keys might change under a variety of development scenarios.

The study team should also place an immediate, strong emphasis onspecifying the procedures by which the sub-modules will interact.A high level “roadmap” should be constructed, showing every input to andoutput from each module. In addressing this task it will



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Interim Review of the Florida Keys Carrying Capacity Study 7 Conclusion The Florida Keys Carrying Capacity Study is an ambitious effort,and this committee fully appreciates the technical and policy challengesfacing the study team and sponsors. The challenge of creating a comprehensive,flexible, and reliable assessment tool is compounded by a highlycharged political atmosphere surrounding land development and environmentalissues in the Keys. The study team is to be commended for its effortsto date and the many areas where progress has been made in the CarryingCapacity Analysis Model and the overall study. The committee notes that this brief interim report is based primarilyon presentations made during a two-day workshop that attempted todescribe a major activity still in progress. The committee appreciatesthe cooperation and explanations offered by the study team and recognizesthat its exposure to the assessment tool has been limited. The commentsand advice provided are offered in a spirit of constructive criticismwith the understanding that many changes and improvements to theassessment tool may already have been made since the workshop. The major concerns raised by the committee at this time, along withsome suggested remedies, are summarized below. Many more detailedobservations and recommendations are contained throughout the textof the report. The concept of creating an assessment tool to guide the developmentand environmental future of the Florida Keys is intriguing; however,the goal established for this study, “to develop a model capableof determining the ability of the Keys ecosystem to withstand allimpacts of additional land development activities,” contains ambiguitiesand imprecision that must be addressed. Some expectations for theKeys Study exceed current scientific understanding and modeling capabilities.Much of the terminology employed in the scope of work is also unclear.For example, the term “carrying capacity” is not easy to define or measure. Nevertheless,the term could be incorporated into the planning tool if its usageand the ways it is to be measured are defined carefully and clearly. Although many of the goals set and words used were not chosen bythe study team members, nevertheless, they should quickly developa clear and consistent terminology for the study and work to educateall interested parties about the inherent limitations of this ambitiouseffort. By reviewing some of the published literature on ecologicaland social system modeling and obtaining more regular input fromthe expert advisors, the study team can help explain how the finalproduct can best be used by land use planners, other decision makers,and the public in the Florida Keys. Despite these limitations, the study team's efforts in data collection and process modeling should still bevery useful. Rather than creating a fully predictive numerical simulationmodel the study team should aim to create an “impact assessment tool” that can be used to help visualize the consequences of various landdevelopment scenarios on the Keys' environmental and social systems.Such a tool could be used in analyzing future development scenariosand could be a powerful aid in helping decision makers understandhow the Keys might change under a variety of development scenarios. The study team should also place an immediate, strong emphasis onspecifying the procedures by which the sub-modules will interact.A high level “roadmap” should be constructed, showing every input to andoutput from each module. In addressing this task it will

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Interim Review of the Florida Keys Carrying Capacity Study be best to start at the end, obtaining agreement from key stakeholdersabout what the final CCAM outputs will be, and how they will be presented.The next step should be to determine the nature of the CCAM scenarioinputs. Knowing more about the initial inputs and ultimate outputswill guide much of the module development. Finally, whenever onemodule produces an output to be used as input to another module,a clear understanding must be reached between the module teams aboutthe space and time scales, level of precision, and units required.Seamless coordination between modules represents one of the greatestchallenges to the study team, but not enough resources and time haveyet been devoted to this effort. Although the “big picture” design should be a top priority, the CCAM will only provide meaningfulresults if each module translates inputs to outputs in a reasonableway, based on an understanding of the parameters and processes involved.To do this to the limits of current knowledge would far exceed thetime and money available. Thus, difficult choices will have to bemade about which elements to include in each module and at what levelof detail. Greater reliance on the expert advisors should be helpfulin making these choices. This committee has been asked by the Keys Study sponsors to providea second, more detailed review after the draft CCAM is completedin June 2001. For that review to be successful the committee willrequire relevant CCAM documentation, including a clear summary document,before it begins deliberations. In particular, the committee willneed to consider such materials as the following: documents that precisely describe the inputs to and outputs fromeach module, provide clear explanations of the process for gettingfrom inputs to outputs in each module, and include other relevantinformation about the inner workings of the CCAM; documentation of the data used in each module, including their sources,dates, and quality assurance/quality control procedures and results; explanations of the uncertainties associated with each output fromeach module and results of sensitivity testing, as discussed in Section4 of this report; results of any scenario tests conducted, describing the input parameters,the data transfers between modules, and the module outputs, bothnumerically and graphically. Due to the preliminary nature of this interim report, and the rapidturnaround required by the sponsors, the committee's full evaluationof the final CCAM product may differ in many respects from the statementsmade here. Nevertheless, the committee hopes that this report willhelp the CCAM design team achieve a better end-product. The committee looks forward to continued interactions with the studyteam and to playing a useful role in evaluating this innovative toolfor land use planning and public policy formulation in the FloridaKeys.