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.