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3 Additional Components of Monitoring Monitoring to enable adaptive assessment is an important reason to monitor within the Restoration Plan, but it is not the only reason, nor should it be. Local and national interest in progress toward restoration of the Everglades necessitates monitoring those aspects of the system that represent successful restoration in the public eye. That is, it is important to collect monitoring data that can be incorporated into a status report (sometimes called a “report card”) that documents progress toward recovery of elements of the ecosystem that are particularly symbolic or highly valued in the public arena. In the Everglades, as in other systems, these elements include endangered species and particularly animals at upper trophic levels. Endangered species figure prominently in another essential type of monitoring, regulatory compliance monitoring. In the Everglades this category includes monitoring of water quality, as well as of endangered species. THE REPORT CARD The ultimate success of the Restoration Plan, restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem and conservation/preservation of the natural system, will be realized only through continuing political and financial support in perpetuity. One of the greatest challenges of the restoration will be maintaining public support, and thus political and financial support, during the 30-40 year implementation period. “Report cards” constitute a strategy that has been used successfully to maintain public awareness and support for ecosystem restoration projects (e.g., Heinz Center, 2002; Natural Environment Research Council, 2000; Chesapeake Bay Program, 2002). The primary objective of an ecosystem report card for the Everglades is to inform the public about how the natural system is responding to efforts to return the ecosystem to historical conditions. Several key indicators generally are selected for a report card based on the availability of a long-term record, relevance and comprehensibility to the public, and potential responsiveness to the planned restoration. Evaluation of indicator status with respect to historical conditions is reported periodically to the public in the report. A similar approach is planned during the Restoration Plan. In 1999, a set of ten report card performance measures (Table 3-1) were selected from the much larger set of Monitoring and Assessment Plan performance measures (Ogden and McLean, 1999). The specific criteria used to select the report card performance measures were that they “(1) measure an element of the natural or human system that the Comprehensive Plan
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is expected to improve, (2) reflect the overall health of all or a portion of the regional system, and (3) be an element of the regional system that is both highly important and relevant to the public and to decision-makers.” Annual report cards for each measure are planned. Statements at the monitoring and assessment workshop indicated that each report card will provide several types of information. That information is likely to include the final and interim targets for the performance measure, the rationale for selecting the measure, the historical and current condition of the measure, and a grade for the measure. While there may be value in adding additional report card measures to this set that reflect public interest, the importance of maintaining long-term data sets cannot be stressed enough. TABLE 3-1 Report Card Performance Measures Performance Measure Measurement Grade Potential non-Restoration Plan related impacts Lake Okeechobee Phosphorus Levels Phosphorus concentrations in open water Red Release from sediment storage, shoreline development, precipitation patterns, altered lawn chemical application St. Lucie Oyster Beds areal extent and health of beds Red Disease, predators, harvesting, pollutants, sea-level rise St. Lucie Phosphorus Levels Phosphorus loading to the estuary Red Release from sediment storage, shoreline development, precipitation patterns, altered lawn chemical application Lake Okeechobee and East Coast Water Restrictions years with water-use restrictions Yellow Precipitation patterns, development, altered industry types, population increase Florida Bay Roseate Spoonbills number of nesting pairs Yellow Habitat conditions elsewhere, temperature extremes, precipitation patterns, contaminants (e.g., Hg), fire, hurricanes Gulf Coast Roseate Spoonbills number of nesting pairs Red Habitat conditions elsewhere, temperature extremes, precipitation patterns, contaminants (e.g., Hg), fire, hurricanes Tree Islands number, extent and health Red Precipitation patterns, fire, invasive species Total System Wood Storks number of nesting pairs Red Habitat conditions elsewhere, temperature extremes, precipitation patterns, contaminants (e.g., Hg), fire, hurricanes Florida Bay Seagrass Beds Community composition and health Yellow Hurricanes, altered herbivory (e.g., increases in manatee or sea turtle populations), development, disease, altered boating patterns, invasive species Water Lost to Tide acre feet not captured by the CERP Red Precipitation patterns, hurricanes Tortugas Pink Shrimp Pounds per vessel per day Yellow Precipitation patterns, hurricanes Note: The grade “red” indicates a seriously degraded condition, “yellow” indicates some degradation or cause for concern, and “green” represents an ecosystem component that is in the target condition or a condition otherwise judged desirable. Source: Ogden and McLean, 1999.
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The value of these report card measures is that they reflect the condition of the ecosystem, are influenced by multiple stressors, and are valued by some portion of the Restoration Plan’s stakeholders. They are also useful because they include measures of changes that are irreversible (e.g., extinction of a species) or that reflect the outcome of processes that change very slowly over time (e.g., tree islands). However, it is crucial that the report cards make clear that variations in the performance measures and unexpected results (i.e., lack of response or actual decreases in the report card grade) may be a result of influences other than those produced by the Restoration Plan (Table 3-1). For example, variation in roseate spoonbill populations might result from habitat conditions elsewhere, over winter survival rate or fecundity in previous years (Frederick and Ogden, 2001). Monitoring of the report card measures must be supported by research that establishes the cause-and-effect relationships between the measure and environmental variation as well as variations in these “outside” and Restoration Plan influences. This means that while the report card measures play an essential role in educating the public and informing management decisions, these measures alone are insufficient to capture the ecosystem response to the Restoration Plan. The Monitoring and Assessment Plan must include a much broader list of monitoring variables supported by specific, mechanistic research to allow for restoration of the Everglades using adaptive management. What is monitored for purposes of reporting progress to the public is to some extent dictated by public interest, and therefore these elements will often lack some of the desirable characteristics of performance measures monitored for adaptive assessment. In particular they may not be especially relevant to the most important predictive models or revealing of critical ecological mechanisms. These features are not essential in a “report card” measure, but it is important to select measures that are somewhat sensitive to the Restoration Plan’s design and operation and are associated with relatively low levels of uncertainty, if possible. In addition, some of the measures in Table 3-1 are likely to change only slightly from one report to the next. Monitoring of such slowly changing variables may result in little or no apparent progress for long periods, and thus the reports might appear to be indicative of failure. Reports of variables that change little or not at all also will be of little public interest. For some variables in the report card, annual reporting might be much too frequent (NRC, 2000). Several other performance measures included in the Monitoring and Assessment Plan, although not part of the “official” status report depicted in Table 3-1, will inevitably serve a “status report ” function because of their visibility and interest to the public. Population levels of higher vertebrates, including endangered and threatened species, fall into this category, and their inclusion in the Monitoring and Assessment Plan can be justified on this basis in those cases where links to restoration are tenuous. System-wide measures of this sort, such as alligator populations and numbers of foraging and nesting wading birds, should be viewed primarily as report card measures, and as secondary to system-wide performance measures or indicators more closely linked to ecosystem function in the context of adaptive assessment. REGULATORY COMPLIANCE MONITORING Several federal environmental laws apply to the Everglades, for example, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. State laws apply as well. Thus, in addition to focusing on the ecosystem, the Adaptive
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Assessment Team must consider information needs at each of the organizational levels of the ecosystem as they develop the Monitoring and Assessment Plan for the Restoration Plan. The reality of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) means that the Adaptive Assessment Team must consider information needs at the level of individual species, as well as needs related to community structure and ecosystem function. The Everglades system contains significant populations of several endangered species, and some of the monitoring described within Monitoring and Assessment Plan is necessary to comply with the ESA. The Adaptive Assessment Team, by integrating compliance monitoring with other monitoring within Monitoring and Assessment Plan, incorporates compliance monitoring into adaptive assessment to the extent that it is possible. In some cases, it is possible to use monitoring of endangered species to reveal the effectiveness of the Restoration Plan or the nature of critical ecological mechanisms because the declines of these species are closely tied to the functioning of the Everglades ecosystem. Population dynamics of both Cape Sable seaside sparrows (Curnutt et al., 1998; Nott et al., 1998; Walters et al., 2000) and snail kites (Beissinger, 1995) are strongly affected by hydroperiod. Populations of these species are expected to be sensitive to restoration activities, and thus their monitoring can serve an adaptive assessment function, as well as status-report and compliance-monitoring functions. Monitoring of crocodiles may serve all three functions as well due to the impact of salinity in estuaries on hatchlings and juveniles less than 200 g (Mazzotti et al., 1986). Although impacts of the Restoration Plan on other endangered and threatened species (Florida panther, red-cockaded woodpecker, West Indian manatee) are articulated in the MAP, influences of extraneous factors on these species are sufficiently strong that their population dynamics will likely be rather insensitive to restoration actions. Florida panthers were hunted to near extinction by humans and now suffer from problems inherent to small, isolated populations, among others (NRC, 1995). The dynamics of red-cockaded woodpecker populations are driven by availability of old-growth pines for cavity excavation, and thus will depend more on provisioning of artificial cavities by managers than on restoration efforts (Walters, 1991). Manatee numbers are depressed by mortality resulting from collisions with boats. Performance measures for these species are of little use in adaptive assessment, and are risky as status-report variables. Monitoring of these species is best viewed as strictly compliance monitoring. Wood storks represent an intermediate case; as a key member of the wading bird guild they are expected to respond to restoration and at least be useful as a status-report indicator. Indeed, the number of nesting pairs of wood storks is one of the variables selected for the status report (Table 3-1). But their numbers are more subject to factors extraneous to the restoration than are numbers of Cape Sable seaside sparrows and snail kites, and thus their use in adaptive assessment is more limited. Strict compliance measures probably should be kept separate from the report card, because what constitutes compliance is likely to change over time. Thus, such measures are likely to drop out of or enter the list of monitored variables over time, which makes them unsuitable as reference baseline indicators or as indicators of restoration progress. Achieving water quality standards is part of “getting the water right”, and thus monitoring water quality is essential to adaptive assessment, but it is also a regulatory requirement in some cases. Several of the Monitoring and Assessment Plan hydrologic performance measures are specific for phosphorus. However, performance measures for other regulated contaminants such as mercury and organics are not included in the plan.
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