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SCIENCE AND THE GREATER EVERGLADES ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE CRITICAL ECOSYSTEM STUDIES INITIATIVE Executive Summary The Everglades represents a unique ecological treasure, and a remarkable collaboration of local, state, and federal agencies is currently working to reverse the effects of nearly a century of wetland drainage and impoundment for water supply, flood protection, and development. Although not all parties agree on the details of the effort, there seems to be universal agreement that the best possible science should serve as the basis of planning, implementing, and, ultimately, operating the restoration projects. The path to restoration will not be easy, and clearly there is a large element of uncertainty in this complex undertaking. Good science should be a vital component, as it will increase the reliability of the restoration, help enable solutions for unanticipated problems, and potentially reduce long-term costs. In the past few years, however, the investment in science and research relevant to the restoration has eroded measurably within some agencies, including one major Department of the Interior (DOI) science program, the Critical Ecosystem Studies Initiative (CESI). Funding for the CESI program has decreased from a maximum of $12 million per year (1998) to its current level of $4 million per year (2002). In response to concerns over the declining science funding and the adequacy of science support for restoration decision making, the U.S. Congress instructed DOI to commission a study by the National Academies1 to review the science component of the CESI program (see Box ES-1 below for the Statement of Task). The mandated study was carried out by a special panel organized by the Academies between January and December 2002. A summary of the panel's findings follows. 1 The National Academies consists of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council is the operating arm of the National Academies.
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SCIENCE AND THE GREATER EVERGLADES ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE CRITICAL ECOSYSTEM STUDIES INITIATIVE BOX ES-1 Statement of Task for the Panel to Review the Critical Ecosystem Studies Initiative An expert panel organized by the National Academies was charged to: assess the adequacy (types and funding levels) of science being conducted in the DOI CESI program in light of the scientific activities of other entities and the needs of the overall restoration effort provide guidance as to how the science being conducted under the CESI rubric can be better planned, managed, and reviewed and how it can be better coordinated and integrated with relevant work outside the program advise DOI with respect to CESI strategic planning provide guidance with respect to information management and effective dissemination of science produced in the CESI program to help assure support for decision making during the planning, implementation, and operational phases of restoration. Although this review focused on the science components of the CESI program, it was undertaken in the context of the full portfolio of science being carried out by the various entities involved in the South Florida restoration. The CESI program is an important component of the overall endeavor, but it could not be assessed alone as a discrete activity. CESI BACKGROUND The CESI program was intended to meet the most important science information needs for the South Florida ecosystem restoration in order to support project design, restoration decision making, and planning as it related to DOI lands. Prior to the CESI program's establishment in 1997, the region was rich with agencies conducting scientific and engineering research; however, limited funding, divergent agency missions, insufficient coordination, and compressed timetables left critical voids in the restoration science. The CESI program 's “gap-filling” strategy offers agility and flexibility, allowing the program to address emerging research needs and to respond to urgent decision-making timeframes, while also supporting overlooked or underfunded science needs. From its inception, the CESI program has funded a wide range of studies, including experimental ecosystem research, model development and refinement, ecosystem characterization, environmental impact assessments, restoration planning, and science review. Broadly, science studies funded through the CESI program were intended to provide information about how the ecosystem functions and how the natural system has been altered. The program also aimed to develop tools to predict how the current system might respond to restoration of historic hydrological conditions. Extensive research has been conducted to clarify the linkages between hydrological conditions and ecosystem attributes.
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SCIENCE AND THE GREATER EVERGLADES ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE CRITICAL ECOSYSTEM STUDIES INITIATIVE Scientific information derived from CESI studies was intended to inform res-toration planning and decision making. Specific emphasis was placed on early restoration projects, such as the Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park and C-111 projects, which directly impact DOI lands and are scheduled to be completed early in the restoration time frame. These ongoing projects, however, highlight the inherent difficulties of providing effective scientific advice after the project planning process has already begun. Nevertheless, scientific information derived from these early projects can be used to inform larger-scale restoration decisions and improve the design of future Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects. CESI MANAGEMENT The CESI program is managed and administered by the National Park Service, but the program is a collaboration among numerous federal, state, and local governments. Such collaboration allows diverse agency perspectives to be considered as the scientific information priorities are determined. The CESI program's organizational structure provides an agile and effective framework for managing the research program. Nevertheless, improvements in CESI management are necessary. Several key areas of CESI management require immediate attention to improve the effectiveness of the CESI program, including the narrow distribution of requests for proposals, an insufficient peer-review process, and limited involvement of expert advisors. The CESI program must move quickly to address emerging science needs and to meet restoration decision-making deadlines. However, sometimes this fast action occurs at the expense of appropriate proposal development and review. CESI managers can substantially improve the scientific viability of their research products by broadening the distribution of requests for proposals, improving proposal review standards, involving independent reviewers, and improving the review of research products before they are released to users. Expert advisors appointed to CESI program advisory committees should be integrally involved with the proposal review process. CESI managers should also utilize these committees to incorporate diverse advice on the establishment of research priorities and to promote closer coordination with related research and monitoring activities. Other management changes are needed to increase the effectiveness of the CESI program. Restructuring of research within Everglades National Park should be considered to improve the application of CESI funding across all DOI lands and resources impacted by the greater Everglades ecosystem restoration. The CESI manager should also have direct responsibility for funds allocated by interagency agreement and should seek to improve public awareness of its contributions to the restoration effort through expanded dissemination efforts. Changes in the CESI management structure are expected to be implemented soon in accordance with an interagency memorandum of understanding among DOI's South Florida science programs. The reorganization is designed to facili-
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SCIENCE AND THE GREATER EVERGLADES ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE CRITICAL ECOSYSTEM STUDIES INITIATIVE tate improved science coordination among DOI agencies, but the proposed management plan needs to include sufficient scientific expertise and agency representation to ensure appropriate prioritization and management of the research funds. The new management structure would be strengthened by the appointment of a senior scientist to coordinate the CESI program. Additional program staff will likely be needed to synthesize and communicate the findings. UNMET SCIENCE NEEDS Several areas within the CESI program require additional attention to meet the science needs of the greater Everglades ecosystem restoration effort. This study did not include a complete gap analysis of South Florida science in the evaluation of the CESI program, but broad science information gaps clearly remain, highlighting the need for continued support of the CESI program. Specifically, the CESI program has not adequately supported priority research needs in the areas of social science, water-quality modeling, and contaminants. Despite the CESI program's extensive research on the linkages between hydrological and ecological attributes, significant additional study is required to examine these linkages for a wider range of species and communities, with particular emphasis on ecological performance measures identified by the CERP. Hydrological and ecological models that will provide the basis for scientific advice for restoration planning need continued refinement and additional supporting field-data collection. The CESI program should identify priority research topics in under-funded areas, such as those identified here, and formulate effective research programs based on rigorous peer-review procedures. CESI managers should then develop budget estimates and seek additional funding to support these programs. The results of scientific research must be synthesized and broadly disseminated to all stakeholders for scientific knowledge to be useful in restoration planning. Synthesis, however, is notably lacking in the CESI program and in other South Florida science programs. The complexity and expanse of South Florida's ecosystems require a multidisciplinary approach to convert observational, experimental, and modeling results into knowledge that spans multiple spatial and temporal scales. Although the CESI program should substantially improve its contributions toward science synthesis, the CESI program is just one of several ongoing science programs that support the South Florida ecosystem restoration. The broader restoration requires a single overarching entity to facilitate comprehensive restoration science synthesis and to coordinate scientific efforts beyond the boundaries of the CERP and of the CESI program. Such an entity would provide scientific vision for the restoration, promote collaboration to maximize the cost effectiveness of science resources, and improve the usefulness of new and existing scientific information.
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SCIENCE AND THE GREATER EVERGLADES ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE CRITICAL ECOSYSTEM STUDIES INITIATIVE CESI FUNDING On the whole, federal investments in the CESI program have produced valuable science, a rich database, and a starting point for a basic understanding of the dynamics of the greater Everglades ecosystem. However, funding for CESI science has been inconsistent and is now far less than is needed to support DOI's interests in and responsibilities for the restoration. Additional funding to improve synthesis and communication of the research results is especially critical. The result of the budget shortcomings has been that difficult choices were made and high-priority scientific research needs have gone unmet. In some cases, the lack of scientific information will have little or no impact on the outcome of the restoration. In other cases, the ecological and economic impacts may be very high. Scientific research represents an investment in the knowledge base that will support the restoration over its lifetime. Inadequate science support now may result in exponentially increased costs later if failed restoration projects need to be redesigned based on unforeseen consequences of the restoration efforts. With the recommended management improvements, the CESI program provides a good structure to address the restoration's high-priority science needs and urgent scientific questions in order to advise restoration planners. Congress should increase CESI research funding to meet DOI's restoration science needs, contingent upon several high-priority improvements in CESI management. These management improvements are necessary to ensure that new funds are directed in an efficient and effective manner to the proper science priorities and with an adequate peer-review structure in place. LINKS TO DECISION MAKING CESI-funded scientific research faces notable barriers in its support for South Florida ecosystem restoration. The greatest of these barriers is the compressed timetable for the CERP and for other restoration projects. Quality long-term ecosystem research will be pressed to meet the time lines set for the restoration effort. Scientists and planners alike recognize that it will not be possible to resolve all scientific uncertainties before the restoration construction begins; thus, increased reliance will be placed on adaptive management to incorporate research results throughout the process of restoration project planning, construction, and operation. Project designs must be sufficiently resilient to accommodate new research findings and allow sufficient operational changes after construction. Nevertheless, restoration managers should reevaluate the current restoration schedule in cases when critical science questions remain that could affect project design decisions beyond their inherent operational flexibility. Researchers must be more responsive to external time pressures for information, and they must be willing to adapt research studies to meet the identified information needs. Meanwhile, new approaches to coordination between restoration planners and researchers will be required to identify emerging and high-priority needs, agree upon workable timetables, and promptly communicate the research findings after the results have been peer reviewed appropriately.
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SCIENCE AND THE GREATER EVERGLADES ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE CRITICAL ECOSYSTEM STUDIES INITIATIVE Currently, barriers remain in the dissemination and communication of the research findings to restoration planners and decision makers. Several of these issues broadly affect all of South Florida's restoration science activities, not just the CESI program, and improvements in existing science institutions could greatly improve research communication, prioritization, and coordination for the restoration effort. Passage of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 altered the political and administrative environment within which the greater restoration process will proceed, and circumstances have changed significantly from those in place when the CESI program was formed in 1997. In the CERP, an organizational framework called RECOVER2 was created as the primary venue for communicating scientific results to the project planners and engineers responsible for implementation, and the RECOVER team is emerging as one of the potential leading science advisory organizations in South Florida. To facilitate integration of research findings, steps should be taken to assure that sufficient numbers of scientists representing a broad representation of agencies participate in the RECOVER committee process. To support sound prioritization of research and monitoring activities for the South Florida restoration, Congress should consider how to formalize a significant role for DOI on RECOVER while maintaining the broadest possible participation of other restoration stakeholders. Non-CERP projects, however, represent almost half of the total funds estimated for the greater Everglades restoration effort, and these non-CERP activities must be an integral part of restoration-wide science coordination and synthesis efforts. CONCLUSION The CESI program provides a strategic framework for addressing restoration science needs, and the suggested management improvements should ensure that the funds are directed in an effective manner (see Chapter 6 for a complete listing of the conclusions and recommendations). Many critical scientific information needs remain, and the value of a science funding program focused on DOI's needs and responsibilities within the South Florida ecosystem restoration is significant. Strategic early investments in ecosystem science should improve the likelihood of reaching restoration goals while reducing the overall cost of the restoration effort. Yet these research investments must also be supported by eco-system-wide science synthesis and mechanisms for integration and coordination. Science synthesis and integration are critical challenges faced by all agencies contributing to South Florida restoration science, and they cannot be solved by the CESI program—or any of the other existing science programs—alone. 2 REstoration, COoordination, and VERification.
Representative terms from entire chapter: