6

Conclusions and Recommendations

The Critical Ecosystem Studies Initiative (CESI) has been important to a number of the components of the greater Everglades ecosystem restoration. Although significant changes in the management and administration of the program must be made, the fundamental purposes and objectives should remain intact to provide science support for the Department of the Interior's (DOI) resource stewardship interests and restoration responsibilities, including its concurrence, consultation, and reporting requirements for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). As the CERP is implemented over the next several decades, DOI will need an effective, coordinated, and strategic research program, including ongoing research on the ecological and biological impacts of the restoration projects, model development, comprehensive monitoring and assessment, and data integration and synthesis. Continued and substantially increased funding will be needed for the CESI program to adequately support DOI's interests in the restoration with the best possible peer-reviewed scientific information. Despite its importance, rigorous and comprehensive research alone is insufficient to assure strong contributions of science to inform restoration decision making. Effective synthesis and dissemination of research findings and the formal leadership role DOI is given in the restoration process may determine the impact of CESI science on the South Florida ecosystem restoration. Based on the review of the CESI program, the conclusions and recommendations of this study are summarized as follows:

1) Conclusion: The CESI program has been an important resource to help address the immense science information needs of the Everglades restoration. Achieving the goals of the South Florida ecosystem restoration will require a commitment to science throughout the process. The CESI program has funded many quality studies that have made important contributions to Everglades restoration. The federal investment has produced useful science, a rich database, and the starting point for acquiring a basic understanding of the dynamics of the Everglades ecosystem. The CESI program's support for research on the linkage between ecological and hydrological processes provides a strong scientific foundation for future decision making so that scientists and planners can respond to



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SCIENCE AND THE GREATER EVERGLADES ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE CRITICAL ECOSYSTEM STUDIES INITIATIVE 6 Conclusions and Recommendations The Critical Ecosystem Studies Initiative (CESI) has been important to a number of the components of the greater Everglades ecosystem restoration. Although significant changes in the management and administration of the program must be made, the fundamental purposes and objectives should remain intact to provide science support for the Department of the Interior's (DOI) resource stewardship interests and restoration responsibilities, including its concurrence, consultation, and reporting requirements for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). As the CERP is implemented over the next several decades, DOI will need an effective, coordinated, and strategic research program, including ongoing research on the ecological and biological impacts of the restoration projects, model development, comprehensive monitoring and assessment, and data integration and synthesis. Continued and substantially increased funding will be needed for the CESI program to adequately support DOI's interests in the restoration with the best possible peer-reviewed scientific information. Despite its importance, rigorous and comprehensive research alone is insufficient to assure strong contributions of science to inform restoration decision making. Effective synthesis and dissemination of research findings and the formal leadership role DOI is given in the restoration process may determine the impact of CESI science on the South Florida ecosystem restoration. Based on the review of the CESI program, the conclusions and recommendations of this study are summarized as follows: 1) Conclusion: The CESI program has been an important resource to help address the immense science information needs of the Everglades restoration. Achieving the goals of the South Florida ecosystem restoration will require a commitment to science throughout the process. The CESI program has funded many quality studies that have made important contributions to Everglades restoration. The federal investment has produced useful science, a rich database, and the starting point for acquiring a basic understanding of the dynamics of the Everglades ecosystem. The CESI program's support for research on the linkage between ecological and hydrological processes provides a strong scientific foundation for future decision making so that scientists and planners can respond to

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SCIENCE AND THE GREATER EVERGLADES ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE CRITICAL ECOSYSTEM STUDIES INITIATIVE new and emerging concerns. The CESI program's gap-filling approach represents an effective strategy to meet complex and changing science needs in the midst of a large number of state and federal agencies with ongoing science programs. This scientific knowledge base, enhanced by quality research and ecosystem monitoring and assessment funded through the CESI program, will enable DOI to address its own resource management concerns and meet its restoration responsibilities for the CERP. Recommendation: The fundamental purposes and objectives of the CESI's research program should remain intact, and the commitment to ecosystem research in addition to model development and environmental assessments needs to be continued. 2) Conclusion: Improvements are needed in CESI management. Narrow distribution of requests for proposals, an insufficient peer review process, limited involvement of expert advisors, and minimal accountability in interagency agreements are problems that need to be addressed in order to improve the effectiveness of the CESI program. Recommendations: CESI managers should broaden the distribution of requests for proposals. The CESI program should develop a consistent and objective process for peer reviews of CESI proposals and a fast-track review process for critical research findings. CESI program managers should work closely with formal program advisory committees to incorporate diverse expert advice into the establishment of research priorities and to promote closer linkages with other South Florida monitoring and research activities. The ESI program must coordinate closely with the RECOVER1 teams and other restoration science programs so that limited science resources are used wisely. The CESI program should expend funds in a timely fashion and should avoid the slow expenditure of appropriated funds that occurred in the early years of the program. The CESI manager and the CESI coordinator should have more direct responsibility for program funds allocated through interagency agreements. National Park Service (NPS) should remove the South Florida Natural Resource Center from the organizational and supervisory structure of Everglades National Park to improve application of CESI science funding over all DOI lands in South Florida. Future CESI management plans should involve sufficient scientific expertise and agency representation in the prioritization and management of the research. DOI should consider appointing a senior scientist within the pro- 1   REstoration, Coordination, and VERification

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SCIENCE AND THE GREATER EVERGLADES ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE CRITICAL ECOSYSTEM STUDIES INITIATIVE posed management structure to ensure proper emphasis and prioritization of research investments. 3) Conclusion: Funding is now inadequate to meet the current scientific information needs. Addressing critical unmet science needs is essential to inform restoration decision making and reduce the long-term costs of restoration. Original estimates of the requirements for DOI science were far larger than the amount of support that has been provided, and as a result many of the identified science gaps remain unaddressed. The CESI program has provided important initial research contributions at the intersections of ecology and hydrology; however, this research is still in its infancy and requires a strong and continued fundng commitment to maximize the likelihood of meeting the restoration goals. Notable gaps that the CESI program has not adequately addressed include social science, contaminants, and water-quality modeling. Meanwhile, enhancements are needed to maximize the usefulness of existing ecological and hydrological models. Recommendations: Funding should be available to provide continued CESI support for ecosystem research and model development to meet DOI's scientific information needs for the restoration in addition to meeting the monitoring and assessment requirements of the CERP. The CESI program should continue to emphasize research on ecological processes because the linkage between ecological and hydrological attributes represents a critical foundation necessary to advise South Florida restoration planning. The CESI program should identify priority research topics in under-funded areas, such as those identified here (e.g., social sciences, water-quality modeling, and contaminants), 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. Congress should increase CESI research funding to adequately address DOI's current restoration science needs including continued support for essential areas such as ecological process studies and model refinement, new support for additional research in priority science gaps, and significant improvements in review, dissemination, coordination, and synthesis. Continued and increased program funding should be contingent upon (1) adhering to and substantially improving the standards for proposal distribution and review and (2) broadening the involvement of expert advisors in the priority-setting and proposal-review processes. 4) Conclusion: Improvements are needed to enhance synthesis and integration efforts both within the CESI program and more broadly in the South Florida restoration. In the compressed timeframe of the South Florida restoration, an effective adaptive management process will be critical in order to incorporate new scientific information and guide project design. Barriers hinder the integration of research findings in all levels of the restoration planning process, and critical gaps exist in translating the available ecosystem data into knowledge

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SCIENCE AND THE GREATER EVERGLADES ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE CRITICAL ECOSYSTEM STUDIES INITIATIVE over varying temporal and spatial scales. The CESI program, however, is only one component of a larger entity that includes many other science initiatives. The combined effect of these issues demand collaborative solutions to foster integration of research findings into South Florida restoration activities. Recommendations: CESI management should place increased emphasis on the synthesis and dissemination of research results. A restoration-wide mechanism for science synthesis and integration should be developed, with appropriate staffing and resources. One approach to synthesis could include an entity with the capability to accumulate past and future research and monitoring results from a broad array of sources while serving as a locus for enhancing understanding of the restoration impacts on the whole ecosystem. The CESI program could serve a major role in such a coordinated initiative by providing data and by supporting the collaboration of investigators in restoration-wide synthesis efforts. South Florida restoration decision makers should increase up-front investments in critical science research that are likely to minimize total restoration costs. In addition to providing additional science funding support, restoration managers should also reevaluate the current restoration schedule in cases when critical science questions remain that could impact project design decisions beyond their inherent operational flexibility. Adequate funds should be made available to hire the staff needed to communicate both CESI and non-CESI science findings to restoration planners, decision makers, and the RECOVER teams. To support sound prioritization of research and monitoring activities for the South Florida restoration and provide leadership commensurate to DOI's interests and responsibilities in the restoration process, Congress should consider how best to formalize a significant role for DOI on the RECOVER while maintaining the broadest possible participation of other restoration stakeholders.