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.


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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