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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.
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.