heightens the challenges facing the restoration efforts beyond those that existed when CERP was authorized.
Although this highly involved context imposes constraints on the restoration, it also makes clear that progress should not be impeded by sets of cumbersome or inflexible metrics of success. Rather progress should be assessed in terms of the extent to which actions are consistent with simple and basic ecological principles that are well understood to determine the fundamental characteristics of the Everglades. The committee, therefore, draws the following conclusions.
Natural system restoration will be best served by moving the system as quickly as possible toward physical, chemical, and biological conditions that previously molded and maintained the historical Everglades. Ecosystems are characterized by the processes that regulate them. If the conditions necessary for those processes to operate are met, recovery of species and communities is far more likely than if attempts are made only to manage and otherwise control individual constituents and elements of the ecological system. Rather than judging restoration progress only by the project completion dates or populations of particular species present, decision makers should judge progress in terms of restoring and maintaining the key ecosystem processes whose functioning strongly influenced the characteristics of the Everglades.
The remaining Everglades landscape will continue to move away from conditions that support the defining ecosystem processes until greater progress is made in implementing CERP and non-CERP projects. Restoring the key functional processes requires (1) providing sufficient water quantity to support the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem, (2) providing the mechanisms and flow paths by which to deliver and distribute water to the natural system in ways that resemble the historical hydrologic regime, (3) reducing eastward seepage of water so that more water can be maintained and distributed within the Everglades ecosystem, (4) implementing measures that reduce the inputs of nutrients to the system, and (5) securing the land needed to support key ecosystem processes. If these five critical components of restoration are achieved, the basic physical, chemical, and biological processes that created the historical Everglades should once again create a functional mosaic of biotic communities that resemble what was distinctive about the historical Everglades.