Box 5: Understanding the origins of profound biological changes at one site will require understanding similar or related changes at the regional level.
FLORIDA BAY: THE NEED TO SEEK A BIGGER PICTURE
In what may be a system that mirrors the broad range of human alterations to estuaries, there is disturbing evidence that the Florida Bay ecosystem is collapsing. Florida Bay (2,200 km2), and the adjacent Florida Keys, is the only tropical marine ecosystem in the continental United States, with a vast economic value for the state of Florida. Florida Bay and the coral reef tracts of the Keys are connected by coastal currents, and thus the Bay may have a critical influence on the reefs. Likewise, alterations to land runoff and freshwater systems can affect Bay waters.
There is considerable scientific debate over the causes of collapse, and thus of the potential for recovery, or the steps that are necessary to implement and facilitate recovery. Whereas some of these changes could be considered as only "local" effects, it is important to view this ecosystem collapse in terms of broader changes in the Caribbean marine and terrestrial ecosystems. A more narrow focus on only Florida Bay may be doomed to failure. An important further lesson of the Florida Bay situation is that the water systems on land that impact the Bay, and in turn the Keys offshore, also must be understood and managed.
is designed to accommodate studies at all scales relevant to a specified biodiversity research project.
Three biological rationales suggest the need to use a regional-scale approach to study, concurrently, a variety of different types of marine ecosystems.