5
Conclusions and Recommendations

Conclusion: The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (Restoration Plan) Monitoring and Assessment Plan (MAP) is grounded in current scientific theory and practice of adaptive management. The least developed aspects of the planned adaptive management are feedback mechanisms to connect monitoring to planning and management.

Recommendations:

  • Adaptive management must not simply mean “flexibility in decision making under uncertainty.” When considering a variety of possible strategies, actions should be taken that are informative, reversible, and less uncertain or at least robust to uncertainties.

  • Institutional mechanisms should be created and sustained to ensure that scientific information is available and accessible to the decision-making process.

  • Opportunities for flexibility in design should be identified and operational features of the Restoration plan components should be assessed to help prioritize monitoring and assessment activities.

Conclusion: Restoration goals, objectives, and targets for the Everglades are inadequately defined and are not reconciled with the large-scale forces of change in south Florida.

Recommendations:

  • Targets should be set as soon as possible that define the extent of compatibility between the built and natural systems and that address possible conflicts between ecological restoration and other policies, statutes, and social demands.

  • Research and monitoring must continue to better conceptualize and describe current conditions in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. Continued support and coordination of hydrologic and ecological monitoring and coordination among them are important components of monitoring and assessment. Integrated modeling is the best method for extrapolating findings over large areas and long periods.



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5 Conclusions and Recommendations Conclusion: The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (Restoration Plan) Monitoring and Assessment Plan (MAP) is grounded in current scientific theory and practice of adaptive management. The least developed aspects of the planned adaptive management are feedback mechanisms to connect monitoring to planning and management. Recommendations: Adaptive management must not simply mean “flexibility in decision making under uncertainty.” When considering a variety of possible strategies, actions should be taken that are informative, reversible, and less uncertain or at least robust to uncertainties. Institutional mechanisms should be created and sustained to ensure that scientific information is available and accessible to the decision-making process. Opportunities for flexibility in design should be identified and operational features of the Restoration plan components should be assessed to help prioritize monitoring and assessment activities. Conclusion: Restoration goals, objectives, and targets for the Everglades are inadequately defined and are not reconciled with the large-scale forces of change in south Florida. Recommendations: Targets should be set as soon as possible that define the extent of compatibility between the built and natural systems and that address possible conflicts between ecological restoration and other policies, statutes, and social demands. Research and monitoring must continue to better conceptualize and describe current conditions in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. Continued support and coordination of hydrologic and ecological monitoring and coordination among them are important components of monitoring and assessment. Integrated modeling is the best method for extrapolating findings over large areas and long periods.

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Since the Everglades can never be fully restored, probable conflicts among desired targets must be identified, necessary compromises must be acknowledged, and the scope of the MAP must contemplate this line of inquiry continuing for the duration of the restoration (so emergent conflicts can be resolved appropriately). Conclusion: Adaptive management requires an effective process for learning from management actions. The primary reliance on passive adaptive management planned for the restoration may be the only feasible approach given the large time and space scales of the project and constraints such as those imposed by endangered species. Passive adaptive management uses science to formulate predictive models, makes policy according to the models, and revises the models as data become available. But monitoring is done without controls, replication, and randomization, and thus it lacks statistically valid experimental design, and therefore cannot be used to infer cause and effect. Policy effects are not distinguishable from other human forces or from natural processes. Recommendation: The MAP should be augmented with active adaptive management wherever possible to enable conclusions about cause and effect to be made. As soon as possible, additional expertise in sampling design and analysis of environmental data should be engaged. Opportunities should be identified for active adaptive management that compares alternative policies by means of deliberate experiments. The experiments should use controls, paired comparisons, replication, and randomization. s Conclusion: The MAP needs a rigorous quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) program to ensure that monitoring data are of high quality and utility. Recommendation: To ensure the quality of RECOVER environmental data and related data products, a QA/QC program with clearly defined roles and responsibilities should be established. The current Restoration Plan Program Management Plan for Data Management calls for such a function, but it appears that there has been little substantive progress in this important area. The National Institute of Standards and Technology or other similar organization should be consulted to provide guidance as a QA/QC plan is developed. Conclusion: Including combinations of ecological performance measures and environmental variables hypothesized to impact those measures is critical for the MAP given the adaptive management approach being implemented.

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Recommendations: More ecosystem-level, system-wide performance measures or indicators (such as defined by NRC, 2000) should be identified and set. For example, more use could be made of the nine broad targets developed by the Restudy Adaptive Assessment Team (AAT). Other possibilities include land cover and land use measures, an Index of Biotic Integrity and system-wide diversity measures. Monitoring of invasive species, mercury, and other contaminants needs to be added. Hydrologic performance measures useful in designing the Restoration Plan need to be modified to better serve adaptive management. New aggregated performance measures will be especially critical. Conclusion: Region-wide monitoring of ecosystem drivers as discussed in Chapter 2 is essential to reducing the uncertainties associated with the Restoration Plan but these drivers appear to have received comparatively little attention by the Monitoring and Assessment Plan. Recommendations: To understand better the potential effects of restoration decisions in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem and the Restoration Plan, the external human and environmental drivers of the system, such as human population growth, water demand, and long-term climate, should be monitored and their contributions to ecosystem response should also be assessed through experimentation as well as modeling. Many of them already are monitored by local, state, and federal agencies and so the main challenge will be to coordinate an integrated modeling, monitoring, and experimentation effort that makes good use of such data. Given the expected long time scales of ecosystem response (as well as the extended implementation time scales), models of hydrologic processes and ecological responses, adaptable to new situations and new stressors, will remain a primary design and evaluation tool for projects and monitoring programs. External drivers for these models should be varied over a range of scenarios to assess the “robustness” of the Restoration Plan to future changes. Conclusion: Effective adaptive management requires an explicit feedback mechanism for learning from management actions. Scientists developing the monitoring and assessment plan need an explicit understanding of what information management needs and how monitoring results will be used. Recommendations: To create a basis for scheduling and sequencing projects in the Restoration Plan, an assessment of the design and operational flexibility of the 68 proposed major projects could be used in prioritizing monitoring, experimental, and modeling activities. Therefore, it should be determined which project components have the greatest impact on decisions, and hence on monitoring activities. In other words, the relative ease with which projects could be modified in an adaptive management process should be assessed. Therefore, monitoring and process studies

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should include hydrologic and ecological features for which improved prediction of response can lead to project modification that will improve the restoration outcome. Formal linkages should be established to connect the RECOVER Senior Management Team and the Science Coordination Team to the Restoration Plan decision-makers to keep them informed of the changing state of knowledge, so that they can make decisions based on current scientific information. Conclusion: In addition to serving adaptive management, the monitoring program must also serve compliance monitoring and report card functions. Recommendations: The strategy of integrating, but differentiating, performance measures used for adaptive management, compliance monitoring, and the report card is a worthy one. The MAP should determine on a continuing basis the most effective ways of communicating and explaining scientific information to the decision makers and various stakeholders related to the restoration of the Everglades using adaptive management. System-wide performance measures sensitive to restoration activity and associated with low uncertainty should be included in the report card. It is appropriate to use visible measures of interest to the public, such as abundance of endangered species, in the report card but these will not be sufficient to show positive progress toward restoration. It is appropriate to include compliance monitoring in the adaptive management framework when the performance measures involved will be affected by the Restoration Plan. However, in other cases performance measures will be driven by other factors (e.g., populations of some endangered species), and monitoring of these should be clearly labeled as compliance in nature. Conclusion: The overall design and funding of the Restoration Plan obviously requires adequate and continued support of long-term monitoring and scientific studies throughout the restoration. At this time funding of monitoring activities appears secure and ample. Still, funding is never unlimited, and it is therefore critical that Adaptive Assessment Team develop strategies for prioritizing monitoring needs of all kinds. This includes prioritizing the importance of the various ecological indicators. The Adaptive Assessment Team has done an excellent job of winnowing a large number of possible indicators and monitoring objectives down to a much smaller, but still substantial, subset. Recommendation: The Adaptive Assessment Team should prioritize within this subset of monitoring objectives, and consider the relative utility of elements of the subset in meeting the several monitoring objectives (i.e., adaptive assessment, report card, and regulatory compliance).