Total loads of nitrogen and phosphorus from freshwater sources should be estimated as accurately as possible. A better understanding of the transport, bioavailability, and rates of transformation of DON and DOP (dissolved organic phosphorus) into forms that can be used by algae and macroscopic aquatic plants is needed to provide insight into the effects of increases in nutrient-bearing freshwater flows to the Bay. Quantifying the magnitude of nutrient loadings by source (e.g., organic soils oxidation, urban and agricultural runoff, and regional atmospheric deposition) also will become relevant if steps to reduce nutrient loading to the Bay become necessary.
A historical characterization of the Bay’s water quality would be very useful for a perspective on restoration goals. Such a characterization would be based on anecdotal as well as any scientific information available.
Currently there is no Florida Bay circulation model suitable for research and management purposes, although there are several candidates; such a model is essential to support a Bay water quality model and thus facilitate analysis of CERP effects on the Bay. The difficult and time-consuming tasks of selection, development, and application of a circulation model and water-quality model for the Bay should be key components of the FBFKFS.
To evaluate the effects of CERP on Florida Bay, there must be a linkage of the output of the South Florida Water Management Model (SFWMM), which has a southern boundary of the mangrove zone, and input to the Bay models. One possibility for bridging this gap is the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Tides and Inflows in the Mangroves of the Everglades (TIME) model; another is the similarly structured South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) South Florida Regional Simulation Model (SFRSM). Both models are still under development. The USGS, SFWMD, and Corps of Engineers have not reached consensus on how to effect the interfacing of hydrologic modeling and circulation modeling, and both the USGS and SFWMD modeling efforts are proceeding without such an agreement. An interagency agreement on which model will most usefully serve as an interface between landside hydrologic and Bay hydrodynamic modeling is needed.
Estimates of the influence of the CERP on Florida Bay should also be inferred from statistical and time series analysis of existing data and/or use of simpler “box models,” such as FATHOM (Flux Accounting Tidal Hydrology Ocean Model). This is especially important given the technical difficulties involved in developing full-scale simulation models.
Human factors such as population growth and economic activity; and environmental events whose drivers are distant from Florida Bay and unrelated to CERP activities, such as hurricanes, flooding of the Mississippi River, atmospheric deposition of nutrients from emission sources remote to Florida Bay or its watershed, and sea-level rise; also may influence local conditions in Florida Bay. Research is needed to better define these potential effects and to integrate the results into predictive ecosystem-response models.
There is much to commend in the overall research effort on Florida Bay and in the goals of the FBFKFS. But the evidence that the CERP will cause changes in Florida Bay that may be perceived as undesirable is sufficiently persuasive that the process of more detailed evaluation should begin as an early part of the FBFKFS. The effort required for all these tasks is daunting. Sufficient time and resources should be made available as part of the FBFKFS for essential research to ensure its success and usefulness for management decisions.