Everglades are affected not only by the input of contaminants, but also by the inputs of other elements that alter their behavior. For example, the bioavailability of mercury and its accumulation in fish and other wildlife appears to be controlled not only by inputs of mercury, but also by the supply of sulfate, phosphorus, and dissolved organic carbon. Likewise the transport and removal of phosphorus may be coupled with the supply of calcium in Lake Okeechobee, the STAs, and other portions of the Everglades. Additional research is also needed to clarify the linkages between water quality constituents to support sound multi-contaminant water management decisions.
Although natural system restoration progress from the CERP remains slow, in the past two years, there have been noteworthy improvements in the pace of implementation and in the relationship between the federal and state partners. Federal CERP funding has increased, which has allowed continued progress as state funding has declined. The science program continues to provide a sound basis for decision making, but more transparent mechanisms of integrating science into decision making are needed. Continued public support and political commitment to long-term funding will be needed for the restoration plan to be completed.
Despite progress in implementation, several important challenges related to water quality and water quantity have become clear over the past two years, highlighting the difficulty of simultaneously achieving restoration goals for all ecosystem components in all portions of the Everglades. Achieving water quality goals for phosphorus in the South Florida ecosystem will be enormously costly and will take decades at least. Rigorous scientific analyses of potential conflicts among the hydrologic requirements of Everglades landscape features and species, and the tradeoffs between water quality and quantity, considering timescales of reversibility, are needed to inform future prioritization and funding decisions. Understanding and communicating these tradeoffs to stakeholders are critical aspects of CERP planning and implementation.