The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) has a strong history of scientific accomplishment. More than 120 scientific papers related to the Everglades were published between 2001 and 2011, most of which were peer reviewed. About 50 of those papers were published in the past three years. This body of work provides a growing and impressive underpinning of knowledge from which to guide the restoration project; inform monitoring, assessment, and adaptive management; and ultimately support decision making. This committee judges that synthesis of this science is an essential step to making it accessible for effective decision making across all CERP components. In this chapter the committee focuses on the progress made in synthesizing science across a range of integrative activities, all of which are ultimately intended to support decision making for the CERP. First, the committee reviews various activities aimed at collating and synthesizing the information gained from research and monitoring activities related to the CERP. Progress in, and budgetary impacts to, the monitoring and assessment plan and related activities are then assessed. Modeling activities and the ways models have been used to inform restoration efforts are highlighted. Finally, the committee reviews ongoing progress in developing decision support tools and underscores the roles science and social values play in decision making under risk and uncertainty.
Although previous National Research Council (NRC) reviews commended the science that was done to support the CERP, there were questions about the science’s effectiveness in influencing policy. One recommendation was to put greater emphasis on synthesis of the scientific findings. The 2010 NRC report defined research synthesis as “the process of accumulating, interpreting and articulating scientific results thereby converting them to knowledge and information.” Two important outcomes of synthesis are to better understand funda-
mental system properties and to minimize the kind of scientific and technical disagreements that impede decision making. As the definition implies, part of the complexity (and the challenge) of synthesizing the science for a large ecosystem restoration effort is that there are multiple audiences. For the science community, synthesis should advance understanding. For the policy community, which includes science managers and their advisors as well as decision makers, synthesis can be a source of policy recommendations (outlining policy choices) and a tool for managing conflict. For the interested public, synthesis is a tool for translating what can otherwise be obscure observations about the ecosystem and recommendations for restoration.
Other restoration efforts of the CERP’s scale usually have chosen to address one of these audiences at a time, to greater or lesser effect. For example, the CALFED Bay-Delta Science Program in California (now the Bay-Delta Stewardship Council’s Science Program) chose to solicit thorough scientific reviews by a single or a few authors on about 12 key subjects. These were termed white papers and were aimed mostly at a scientific audience. The program later summarized a decade of research in a State of the Science Report (Healey et al., 2008), a single document that summarized science accomplishments for the policy community and the interested public. The science supported by the CALFED Bay-Delta Science Program proved most useful in the development of biological opinions used for policy purposes by the resource agencies; some white papers were important in those documents, and others were not. The influences on policy came from continuing exposure to the body of work through workshops and conferences more so than from any single synthesis document.
In contrast, since the last NRC review, the Everglades restoration effort has put together what can only be described as a plethora of synthesis efforts. These include special issues of scientific journals, the RECOVER 2009 System Status Report (2009 SSR; RECOVER, 2010); the RECOVER Scientific Knowledge Gained Document (RECOVER, 2011a); the Synthesis of Everglades Research and Ecosystem Services (SERES) Project, sponsored by the National Park Service; the New Science document produced by the South Florida’s Everglades Restoration Task Force’s (hereinafter, the Task Force) Working Group and Science Coordination Group (2010); the Marine and Estuarine Goal Setting for the South Florida Ecosystem (MARES) Project, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); and the Task Force’s System-wide Indicators (stoplight) reports (SFERTF, 2010b). MARES remains in a formative stage and will not be considered here. The System-wide Indicators reports were reviewed in NRC (2010).
These products take different approaches and cover the full spectrum of detail and audiences. The 2009 SSR full report is a comprehensive synthesis narrative accompanied by a 20 page “Key Findings” document and a dedicated website. The Scientific and Technical Knowledge Gained in Everglades Restora-
tion (1999-2009) report (STKG) is composed of 50 two-page reports. The SERES Project is a comprehensive synthesis effort involving literature reviews and original scenario analyses. The New Science summary is four pages (WG and SCG, 2010). Each of the above is organized differently, either around geography or around (often different) critical issues. Each claims to be unique, either in choice of audience or in what data are employed. Taken as a whole they might be seen as an experiment in how best to conduct science syntheses for multiple audiences.
Below the committee briefly discusses the strengths and weaknesses of several of these efforts. The purpose of this review, of course, is to constructively encourage an increasingly effective effort into the future. What should not be lost is that this array of products represents an admirable accomplishment and a serious response to the suggestion that syntheses are important communication tools for a restoration effort. Taken together these synthesis reports address all three major audiences. They include written narratives for scientists who want to see detailed justifications for conclusions; executive summaries with conclusions directed at managers and policy makers; and creative websites for the interested public. Viewed individually, each of these synthesis efforts is interesting and seems to add value (see discussion below). Taken together, they present a relatively consistent view of the broader principles governing the state of the various sciences relevant to the CERP. But they also seem to suggest at least something of a fractured management approach, wherein different governance groups (both among and within reports) each presents its independent perspective on the science and its separate set of recommendations for management.
Peer-Reviewed Literature Syntheses
Recent peer-reviewed publications aimed at synthesis for scientists include the 2009 special issue of the journal Ecological Indicators (Doren et al., 2009) that was discussed in the NRC 2010 report. In 2011 a set of 26 synthesis papers was published in a special issue of Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology (Reddy et al., 2011). These papers were authored by some of the most active agency and academic researchers working on the Everglades ecosystem. They reviewed a broad array of the important technical issues and provided a useful, peer-reviewed scientific underpinning for the policy dialogue. The Everglades Annotated Research References document assembled for the committee by CERP staff (N. Aumen, NPS, personal communication, 2011) also provided an excellent overview of at least some of the influential science that has been published. Like previous NRC committees, this committee has seen evidence that the traditional science and monitoring supporting the CERP continue to make strong progress on developing understanding of the ecosystem and how it is changing.
2009 System Status Report
The RECOVER 2009 System Status Report (SSR; RECOVER, 2010) is a comprehensive synthesis that is built around scientific conclusions from MAP and some non-MAP monitoring and historical data. The SSR is organized by geographic region, in contrast to the SERES literature reviews (Borkhataria et al., 2011) and the STKG report (RECOVER, 2011a), which are organized by technical issue.
The full 2009 SSR is a narrative report (more than 500 pages) that is a useful but traditional scientific description of monitoring results. The full report is supplemented by a 20-page Key Findings report, a short, easy-to-read brochure that should be very useful for technically oriented staff, managers, and decision makers. The Key Findings succinctly tie together interim goals, hypothesis clusters, indicators, and conclusions from the monitoring and assessment program, and include bullets describing their management relevance. This type of integration across what were once separate efforts is rare and will pay off in the future. In addition, the Key Findings subjectively evaluate the question of whether RECOVER’s scientific synthesis of the data yields the same message as do the trends in the stoplight indicators reported by the Task Force. In most, but not all cases, the answer is yes. Of course, critics might question the objectivity of the analysis, but it sets a good precedent (actually testing what indicators indicate) and is perhaps a desirable next step in the evolution of the performance measure concept.
The 2009 SSR also includes a creative website, which has the potential to be an effective and novel presentation of the report. The goal was to allow “managers, stakeholders and scientists with different degrees of technical expertise and interest to easily explore the SSR at the desired level of detail.” Where complete, the website is indeed successful in allowing readers to “‘drill down’ from general information … to the very technical annual reports used to compile the SSR.”1 The reader can also easily navigate to summaries for each region and to key issues within regions. The website contains more details than the Key Findings and fewer than the full report.
Unfortunately, the website does not yet appear to be fully populated. Where done well, the more detailed assessment can be coupled with the Key Findings to tell a coherent story about a geographic location. For example, the Lake Okeechobee section of the website provides enough easy-to-access detail to satisfy a more scientific audience while the Key Findings provide the “bottom line” that the policy community desires. But, all the sections for all the geographic regions are not equally populated with metrics or well linked to the
Key Findings. For example, the Key Findings for the Greater Everglades are coherently presented and mesh nicely with the management relevance, but the website is incomplete in its coverage, and therefore does not fully capitalize on the opportunity to support the Key Findings with more detail. The structure and concepts are there to use the Key Findings and the website in a complementary manner, but the two give the perception of having been developed by two separate groups that never fully integrated.
The website also allows for a tiered approach to the use of performance measures. The 2010 NRC report recommended that a small set of performance measures would be more effective in communicating with policy makers than a very large set. That is a valid comment if the performance measures are viewed as individual indicators of performance, outside the context of ecosystem complexities. Clearly the CERP has taken this to heart. At the same time, too few performance measures can understate integrative complexities in an ecosystem and have little explanatory power, which is especially important when the restoration effort involves a complex geography cross cut with equally complex physical, chemical, and ecological issues. While not necessarily calling them performance measures, the 2009 SSR uses multiple metrics to assess the status of different major ecosystem attributes across four different geographical areas (see Box 5-1 for one example).
The website approach will facilitate the wide dissemination of the outcomes of the monitoring and assessment program and other scientific efforts to a number of relevant audiences if continued. Unfortunately, most times series on the website end in 2008. Frequent updates would allow readers to follow environmental change in each geographic area. Continuing updates of the graphics alone could be a practical way to present real-time results and avoids the cumbersome process of writing a full report each year. Full assessments, of course, would still be important at some longer time intervals.
The substantial effort put into interpretation and synthesis of the monitoring and assessment data is clearly essential to the success of the restoration and is a notable accomplishment. However, the committee cautions both the managers and scientists involved in this endeavor that the 2004-2008 period of record is short and requires a context that only further data can provide. Perhaps more importantly, it was a period during which the ecosystem was strongly perturbed by three hurricanes and then a drought. Although older time series were available for interpretation of some data, other interpretations relied heavily on the 2004-2008 period. This is not to say that management decisions should wait for “all the data.” After all, complete knowledge of the system is not an attainable goal, nor is it necessary from a policy perspective. But any decisions based upon a limited period alone should be considered contingent upon further evaluation. As a result, management decisions need to allow room for flexibility and
Lake Okeechobee Indicators and Metrics
Table 5-1-1 shows the implicit indicators and metrics used on the website to characterize Lake Okeechobee. Taken together, these implicit indicators and metrics provide a succinct but fairly comprehensive synopsis of trends in the various aspects that define the status of Lake Okeechobee. Other geographical areas (Greater Everglades, Northern Estuaries, Southern Coastal System, and ecosystem components that include some overarching indicators) are not as thoroughly populated with metrics. Nevertheless, the website makes it clear that these “indicators” target what the SSR authors consider important issues for each area. The set of formally chosen key indicators, underlain by this informal tracking system on the web, overcomes the lack of explanation that is characteristic of using only a few key indicators while retaining the advantage of being succinct and transparent.
• Mean monthly lake stage
• Community health indices
• Abundance and composition of numerically dominant taxa
• Community composition for dominant species—Electrofishing
• Community composition for dominant species—Trawl sampling
• Black crappie catch rate
• Chironomid (crappie prey) abundance
• Epipelic biomass
• Epiphytic biomass on different plant species
• Epipelic and epiphytic biovolumes
• Phosphorus content of epiphytic periphyton
• Community composition
• Total lake biovolume and chlorophyll a
• Diatom/cyanobacteria ratio
• Microcystin concentrations
• SAV biomass
• SAV distribution
• SAV acreage
• Prey—Wet season biomass
• Prey—Dry season biomass
• White ibis—Location and number of nests
• Wood stork—Location and number of nests
• Proportion of wading bird nests in the Everglades
• TP load
• Pelagic TP, total nitrogen (TN), dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN),
|soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP)|
• TN:TP ratio
• Algal bloom frequency
• Water clarity
• Nearshore TP, TN:TP, SRP:DIN
use the tools of active and passive adaptive management. A comprehensive monitoring and assessment program (discussed later in this chapter) as well as continuing and timely interpretation and synthesis of monitoring data are vital to adaptive management.
The real challenge for any program of this sort is to support and embed the effort that is necessary to move the program forward and create the context for today’s data for the decades to come. The 2009 SSR is a good beginning—not the end. The notable achievements of the RECOVER effort and its admirable translation onto a platform for many levels of understanding will be wasted unless the effort is perpetuated. On the other hand, the frequency of updates to the full SSR could be reduced (e.g., to once every three or four years) if the website were more consistently populated and the time series graphics and associated interpretations were updated annually.
Scientific and Technical Knowledge Gained in Everglades Restoration (1999-2008)
The STKG report (RECOVER, 2011a) is another scientific reference aimed at multiple audiences. It contains summaries of 50 topics—each limited to about two pages—organized around the five critical topics for Everglades restoration (as defined earlier by NRC ). Authors of the two-page articles were asked to not provide recommendations or opinions. The result is an encyclopedia of Everglades restoration issues of greater (e.g., Lake Okeechobee) or lesser (copper in snails) importance. This compendium could be of value for readers looking for a snapshot of a particular issue, but for an integrated view of restoration issues it is insufficient. Differences in quality among the summaries exist. Many are scholarly and contain enough detail to give the reader a useful overview of the literature. Others, such as in the climate change section, are more general and do not adequately incorporate important studies. Also of concern are contradicting details between interpretations in these summaries and other syntheses of the same subject. For example, the STKG synthesis for Lake Okeechobee emphasizes the importance of rates of change in lake stage and shifting ecological zonation, whereas the 2009 SSR emphasizes submerged aquatic vegetation (one ecological zone) at different lake stages. All of these interpretations are of scientific interest, but even subtle differences among synthesis documents could create confusion for less-scientific audiences and could contribute to, rather than help manage, conflicts about appropriate actions. It is also notable that the Ecosystem Services summary paints a more optimistic picture of the usefulness of this tool than does the NRC (2010) report. In summary, there is no established formula for the most effective approach to developing synthesis documents. The approach of the STKG report has been used elsewhere and has its value. But in
the future, it may be a less desirable approach because of the lack of integration and the challenges in negotiating areas of scientific disagreement. The summary on stormwater treatment areas, which appeared in an early draft, was deleted from the final document because legal sensitivities made it difficult to develop a rigorous consensus summary of the science.
The Synthesis of Everglades Research and Ecosystem Services Project, sponsored by the National Park Service’s Critical Ecosystem Studies Initiative, is being conducted by a team of 15 scientists, largely from academia or the Everglades Foundation with a few agency participants. The SERES Project will not repeat the efforts of the other syntheses and indeed makes minimal references to the stoplight indicators, hypothesis clusters, the STKG report, or the 2009 SSR. In the end, however, much of the same science is reviewed.
An interesting aspect of the SERES Project was the effort to identify key questions raised by “managers, decision-makers, and key opinion leaders” that would define the direction of the synthesis effort (SERES Project Team, 2010). The resulting seven general questions were then framed to encourage development of scenarios about implications of different restoration strategies. Developing and analyzing different scenarios that would, for example, balance water quality and water quantity choices in different ways was an important recommendation of NRC (2010). This, of course, is an ambitious undertaking that requires more than just synthesis, if done at any depth. As of March 2012, the alternatives analysis remained under revision,2 and therefore, will not be reviewed here. The alternatives analysis will also consider economic valuation of the ecosystem services of the different restoration scenarios (P. Wetzel, SERES principal investigator, personal communication, 2012). The committee’s previous guidance on this topic (NRC, 2010, which was informed by NRC, 2004b) states that economic valuation of ecosystem services, while valuable, is a complex undertaking that needs to be done with proper rigor. Previous NRC committees were skeptical that enough resources and/or high quality data were available for a robust analysis of ecosystem services in an ecosystem with the scope and complexity of the Everglades.
Aside from the identification of key questions, the main publicly available SERES product to date has been a compilation of literature reviews focused on water quality, landscape patterns, soils, and food webs (Borkhataria et al., 2011). The SERES sub-groups differed in their approach to synthesis, the degree to
which they addressed the questions posed, the degree to which scenarios were developed, and the recommendations or messages for management.
The water quality chapter is a comprehensive review of Everglades water quality, and the data and presentation are scholarly but not unique. The review did not construct scenarios, but it directly confronted the central conundrum of the restoration effort (i.e., water quality and quantity), despite the authors presenting somewhat contradictory views. First they state that there is no tradeoff between hydrologic flows and water quality and that “the only way to maintain a non-impacted Everglades wetland is for water entering the system to have total phosphorus (TP) concentrations at or below 10-12 μg/L.” A more constructive statement suggested a direction that science can take to address the challenges related to water quality and quantity:
Hydraulic restoration could further increase nutrient and contaminant loading if the new water is enriched relative to background levels. Balancing tradeoffs of hydraulic and water quality targets is dependent on understanding (1) the vulnerability of ‘recipient’ ecosystems, (2) expectations of ‘source’ water quality and loads, and (3) ecosystem responses to contaminant loading. (Borkhataria et al., 2011)
The next phase of synthesis reports might profit from directly addressing this type of understanding in different types of Everglades environments.
The food-web chapter was particularly well done. Its discussion of optimization approaches could be employed to address challenges like those stated in the water quality chapter. The conceptual models presented of succession in the various animal and plant communities following perturbation and recovery (e.g., drying, nutrient input) support their final conclusion: recovery of upper trophic levels and multi-species assemblages as well as reasonable control of invasive species is feasible, but multi-species tradeoffs must be quantified to find solutions. The chapter subgroup concluded: “If the trade-offs inherent within the Everglades system are not acknowledged, and management actions switch between the extremes of what is best for one group versus another, the outcome is likely to be more harmful than need be for all groups involved.”
The soils and landscape chapters are also comprehensive, scholarly reviews of processes that drive the configuration of the greater Everglades. The integrative consideration of water quality and effects of hydrology provide a model for the kinds of scenarios and tradeoffs that should guide future syntheses. No synthesis of water quality should fail to consider influences of hydrology and vice versa. These chapters also make it clear that modeling of tradeoffs is essential to finding solutions and/or identifying next steps to address the grand challenges facing this restoration effort.
The Everglades synthesis efforts, in total, reflect scientific progress, the influence of science on policy, and the cohesiveness of governance. In terms of science, the progress in understanding the diverse and complex environments that comprise the Everglades ecosystem is impressive. The growth of conventional knowledge underpinned by scholarly literature is the first step in building science-based policy. The redundancy from the various efforts makes it clear that there is a growing coalescence around the central scientific principles that govern the status of the various ecosystems and the needs, in the broadest sense, for a successful restoration. This consensus was evidenced by the Working Group and Science Coordination Group’s New Science summary (WG and SCG, 2010).
The New Science summary also displayed a weakness that was evident in most of the syntheses, that is, failure to acknowledge conflicts among some of the most fundamental needs of a successful restoration. For example, the summary exhibits a “blind” spot where the silos of hydrology and water quality intersect. Despite universal agreement in the scientific community that the two issues are equally important, the summary seldom attempts to bridge the two issues. After presenting options for increasing flows, the summary provides the following caveat: “Yet, increased flows should be achieved without harmful water levels or impacts to water quality and will be evaluated by policy-makers.” Such a weak statement does not address the often unstated skepticism about whether phosphorous limits can be achieved (and what to do if they cannot?) or the need for more understanding of how and where hydrology and eutrophication interact. Ultimately, finding restoration solutions will require an integrated understanding of the interplay between hydrology and water quality, quantification of the tradeoffs, and identification of opportunities to benefit food webs with less than absolute solutions for either issue.
The next generation of science and syntheses should start with the recognition that fundamental conflicts exist among the solutions being presented; recognize that science can contribute to these solutions; and be guided by scenario building and optimization approaches (e.g., multi-species) that look for opportunities to find optimal balances. As a guide for policy makers (and governance), this fractured approach to synthesis has disadvantages. If policy makers receive multiple recommendations (with sometimes differing details) from multiple directions, then they might conclude that there is confusion about the best path forward.
Continuing some sort of synthesis effort into the future is critical. However, it would not be cost-effective to repeat the entire large and, in some ways duplicative, effort. Furthermore, multiple reviews probably take more resources away from new science than can be justified. The best aspects of the effort, however,
should be continued to push policy toward a common view of the major scientific principles, including explicit recognition of important uncertainties and grand challenges. The present set of documents represents a good start in that direction. Although improvements are needed, the synthesis efforts are a remarkable achievement not only in the scale of effort that was required but also in the depth, breadth, and relevance of what was produced.
MONITORING AND ASSESSMENT AND RECENT BUDGETARY IMPACTS
The importance of monitoring and assessment to the success of Everglades restoration has been recognized from the beginning by the CERP partners and by prior NRC committees. This committee was specifically charged to review monitoring and assessment strategies and protocols used to evaluate CERP progress (see Box S-1), and the following section discusses the recent impacts of budgetary cuts on the monitoring and assessment program.
Beginning with a dedicated NRC workshop in November 2001, a primary focus of the NRC’s reviews has been on the development of an effective monitoring and assessment plan (MAP) and the selection of appropriate and practical performance measures by RECOVER (NRC, 2003b, 2007, 2008, 2010). Performance measures are defined as:
indicators of conditions in the natural and human systems that have been determined to be characteristic of a healthy, restored ecosystem. Achieving the targets of a well-selected set of performance measures is expected to result in system-wide sustainable restoration. The performance measures … are used by RECOVER to predict system-wide performance of alternative plans and assess actual performance following implementation.3
As noted in NRC (2008), performance measures of ecosystem conditions and critical ecosystem stressors on the ecosystem (e.g., estuarine salinity, soil, and water phosphorus concentrations, hydropatterns) have been developed, which allows the evaluation and assessment processes to focus on the current perception of cause-and-effect relationships. This is a great strength of the performance measure system, because an understanding of ecosystem dynamics is crucial for implementing an adaptive management approach.
The criteria used in the selection of performance measures are described in detail in RECOVER (2007) and NRC (2008). The performance measures, in turn, drive the selection of specific parameters that are to be monitored. The CERP partners and contractors, especially the RECOVER Adaptive Assessment Team, have devoted a great deal of thoughtful effort to the design, modification, and
implementation of the MAP over the past decade and more. The link between the selection of a manageable number of performance measures and the long-term sustainability of the monitoring program was clearly identified in the March 2001 draft of the MAP:
The monitoring and assessment plan must be sustainable for perhaps five decades or longer if it is to be successful in guiding CERP throughout its implementation and subsequent operation. The high cost of monitoring a large number of parameters over a large area and a long period of time is a major reason that many monitoring plans in support of adaptive assessment and management have failed to be sustainable. Therefore, it is crucial to identify a minimum set of performance measures that will indicate whether CERP is achieving ecological recovery of the greater Everglades ecosystem and is meeting its water supply and flood protection objectives. (USACE and SFWMD, 2001)
More than 900 performance measures were originally identified for water quality alone, which provides perspective on the seriousness of efforts to make the MAP sustainable. By the time of the 2001 draft of the MAP (USACE and SFWMD, 2001), the Adaptive Assessment Team had reduced the number of performance measures to about 150 (of which about 70 were related to water quality, 20 to hydrology, and 60 to biology and soils). These were further reduced to a total of 83 (NRC, 2007) and then to 53 (NRC, 2008). The MAP and its performance measures were reviewed extensively in NRC (2008), which concluded that “[t]he number of performance measures is not inherently problematic” but noted presciently that “the set of performance measures should be reviewed regularly to determine whether … adequate data collection for each could be sustained over the course of the restoration.”
Budget Pressures on Restoration Monitoring
RECOVER-funded monitoring through the MAP is an important part of a larger monitoring effort related to restoration. The RECOVER-funded monitoring is cost-shared (50-50) between the state and federal partners, is contracted, and fills gaps in existing agency monitoring programs. It is difficult to assess the full history and amount of funding that has been devoted to monitoring in the South Florida ecosystem because many entities collect a diverse mix of data in this large and geographically complex area. Moreover, monitoring data have been, and continue to be, collected for a variety of purposes, including regulatory compliance, baseline determinations, project impacts, trend analyses, and experimental results. Some measurements are intermittent; others are long-term and ongoing. No entity compiles all of the restoration-relevant monitoring conducted by agencies, universities, or other organizations, and no attempt
has been made to track changes in the various monitoring budgets that have implications for the CERP.
The cost of the RECOVER-funded monitoring through the MAP increased from about $0.7 million in fiscal year (FY) 2000 to about $10 million in FY 2007, and MAP funding has declined roughly 60 percent since 2007, with a sharp cut of 48 percent in FY 2012 (Figure 5-1, G. Ehlinger, USACE, personal communication, 2012). About 60 percent of the MAP budget has been devoted to monitoring in the Greater Everglades module,4 with 15-20 percent devoted to the southern coastal systems and, beginning in FY 2009, about 5 percent to the northern estuaries (RECOVER, 2012). Additional RECOVER funding is used to support staff responsibilities for evaluation and assessment, adaptive management, and providing a system-wide restoration view (not included in Figure 5-1).
The declining trend in MAP funding since FY 2007 is a serious concern for the CERP and for this committee. These cuts are amplified by cuts in many other agencies’ monitoring budgets. For example, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), which funds the largest regional monitoring program, reported a reduction of approximately 50 percent in its environmental
4The RECOVER Greater Everglades module includes the Everglades Protection Area and additional wetland and natural areas within and south of Lake Okeechobee.
monitoring expenditures from FY 2007 to FY 2012 (Figure 5-2). Other agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Park Service, also reported downward trends in their monitoring budgets (C. Mitchell, NPS, personal communication, 2011; B. Rosen, USGS, personal communication, 2011). The committee does not have sufficient information to fully evaluate the effects of these cuts on RECOVER’s capacity to assess restoration progress and support adaptive management. However, agency participants in the committee’s October 2011 meeting on the MAP noted that, overall, the monitoring cuts affect the capacity to understand system-wide ecosystem responses and reduce the amount of information available to explain why changes may have occurred.
2011 MAP Re-Optimization and Re-prioritization Process
In this section, the committee offers observations on the procedures that were designed and implemented under great pressure and haste during the summer of 2011 to obtain mandated reductions in the CERP MAP funding for FY 2012. In
March 2011, RECOVER staff developed directions for implementing a system-wide re-prioritization/re-optimization process to select which MAP system-wide monitoring components would be continued, reduced, or eliminated (RECOVER, 2011b). The directions describe in considerable detail a three-part process that was implemented in early June 2011. The first part was an initial optimization of each of the four MAP regions (Greater Everglades, Southern Coastal Systems, Northern Estuaries, and Lake Okeechobee) by the MAP regional coordinators in a workshop setting, with the goal of making existing monitoring as efficient and as optimized as possible. Because MAP monitoring was designed by scientific experts and was based on conceptual modeling, performance metrics, or restoration targets, detailed discussions about changes to sampling stations, methods, or parameters did not occur without a review of the scientific and data objectives and each monitoring component’s relationship to restoration. Once monitoring had been optimized, workshop participants (including principal investigators contracted by RECOVER, scientists, agency science managers, appropriate project delivery team [PDT] members, universities, and environmental organizations) then conducted scenario analyses using hypothetical budget reduction levels. Principal investigators were asked how they would implement their monitoring component given a specific reduction in budget (i.e., 25, 50, 60, and 75 percent budget reductions). Additionally, principal investigators contracted by RECOVER were specifically asked how large a cut they could bear without compromising the value of the remaining monitoring program. The regional coordinators were also tasked with providing the system-wide team with 50 and 65 percent reduction scenarios. Results of the optimization (including discussion) and scenario analyses were documented for use during the prioritization process “to promote transparency and fairness as well as to document how decisions were made” (RECOVER, 2011b). Although “fairness” is an admirable goal, fairness may not be a useful criterion in a decision-making process that should be linked to the ongoing need (or lack of a need) for various performance measures that justify the specific monitoring activities.
In the second part of the process, the regional coordinators met with the regional teams (composed of principal investigators and other subject matter experts) and the Regional Prioritization Team (composed of RECOVER members, agency staff, and PDT members) in late August 2011 to prioritize monitoring in each MAP region. The prioritization process was guided by eight “decision-support guidelines” (see Box 5-2). Although the guidelines seem reasonable, they do not mention the performance measures that were used to design the MAP in the first place. Using these guidelines, the regional coordinators were instructed to “use the consolidated Monitoring Information Matrix and any other resources they deemed necessary to prioritize the monitoring in their region REGARDLESS of funding. The initial ranking was rooted in science and should
MAP Re-prioritization Decision-Support Guidelines
1. Does this monitoring meet a CERP project need? Monitoring should relate to one of the following projects that is already being constructed or slated for construction in the next five years:
a. Immediate CERP Projects: C-44, Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands, C-111 Spreader Canal, Picayune Strand, Site 1 Impoundment, Long-term Plan, Systems Operations.
b. Important Non-CERP Projects: Modified Water Deliveries, C-111 South Dade, Everglades Restoration Transition Plan (ERTP), Kissimmee River Restoration Project.
c. Projects in the Planning Phase: Loxahatchee, Decomp.
2. Is this regulatory monitoring?
3. Is this monitoring required for operations? (i.e., is the information garnered from this monitoring used in weekly operations meeting, etc.?)
4. Is this monitoring related to an Interim Goal (IG)?
5. Does this monitoring contribute to current ecological models? Modeling can help verify restoration performance in the future and support near-term planning efforts.
6. Does this monitoring contribute significantly to the RECOVER System Status Report?
7. Does this monitoring contribute significantly to other reports such as the South Florida Environmental Report (SFER), Stoplight Indicator Report, etc.?
8. Does this monitoring fill an information gap identified in the CERP Priority Program Uncertainties list?
represent how the monitoring would be prioritized if funding was unlimited” (RECOVER, 2011b). The purpose of this exercise is unclear because the experts who designed the MAP began from such a base and then struggled for more than a decade to reduce the number of performance measures and the cost of monitoring. The regional coordinators’ priorities were documented and submitted to the MAP System-wide Prioritization Team, which prioritized the MAP monitoring components for FY 2012.
In the third and final step, the MAP System-Wide Prioritization Team (the team) met in September 2011 to make the final decision regarding what monitoring components would be funded in FY 2012. The team was selected
on the basis of “scientific expertise, programmatic knowledge of CERP and related activities, and agency affiliation.” The participants comprised 16 people (7 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 3 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 3 from SFWMD, 2 from Everglades National Park, and 1 from USGS). No scientists from academic or nongovernmental organizations were included. The team separated the monitoring components into three tiers based on how well they met the Decision Support Guidelines (Box 5-1), utilizing the regional coordinators’ input and making necessary revisions (in consultation with the regional coordinators). A component’s assignment to a tier was also influenced by a desire to continue monitoring in all geographic regions (Greater Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, Southern Coastal Systems, and Northern Estuaries) to maintain a system-wide view. The monitoring components were entered into a spreadsheet by tier with each activity listed in random order within the assigned tier. The team allocated funds to each activity beginning with Tier 1, again drawing on the regional coordinator’s recommendations (after the regional prioritization workshops and using the results of the scenario analyses developed during optimization). The committee has not reviewed in detail the final spreadsheet that summarizes the outcomes of the prioritization but is concerned that the outcomes of key parts of the decision-making process were strongly influenced by the three regional coordinators.
The initial allocation indicated that all Tier 1 monitoring would be funded. Given this outcome, the team decided it would be appropriate to anonymously rank the Tiers 2 and 3 monitoring components. There was substantial time for discussion of the resulting rankings, and the decision-making rationale, the discussion, and any ancillary information used in the process were recorded. With one exception,5 all monitoring components were cut significantly, although all Tier 1 and Tier 2 activities received at least some funding. The team decided that if additional funds became available for FY 2012, then they would be allocated in rank order beginning with the first unfunded monitoring component in Tier 3 (G. Ehlinger, USACE, personal communication, 2012).
The committee appreciates that the MAP leaders had to respond to a very large mandated reduction in funding in a very short time. The impact on morale must have been severe, and there is a natural desire to respond to such a crisis with decisions that would be perceived as fair as well as thoughtful. Although parts of the process remain opaque and some CERP managers and scientists remain dissatisfied with parts of the end result, it is not practical or productive for the committee to find fault with the process or its immediate results. The committee has no forecasts of future MAP funding, but it seems prudent to assume
5Only funding for Florida Bay juvenile sportfish monitoring was not cut by this re-prioritization effort.
that the current level of funding will be maintained or decline further, at least in the next few years. Thus, the committee considered appropriate next steps, given that cuts and budgetary pressures are likely to continue.
As noted earlier, the CERP MAP was designed to fill critical gaps in other regional monitoring programs. Now the MAP is shrinking as the gaps are almost certainly growing and new gaps are almost certainly opening. Although the CERP is struggling with many budget uncertainties, the committee remains convinced of the importance of system-wide monitoring to the success of Everglades restoration. Therefore, to ensure that existing monitoring is cost-effective and provides sufficient support for CERP planning, adaptive management, and public communication, a comprehensive review of all monitoring programs that were considered in the original design of the MAP is needed, considering recent and projected reductions. The major MAP budget reductions for FY 2012 were implemented very quickly, and time was not available to reconsider the essential components of a monitoring program or to consider the shifting budgets of other agency monitoring programs. The Science Coordination Group of the Task Force may be well positioned to facilitate such a review. At the same time, to ensure that monitoring funding is being used most effectively, RECOVER and the Science Coordination Group should reexamine the performance measures and the stoplight indicators to see if they should be reduced or otherwise modified, in the context of reduced MAP funding.
When the results of these two efforts are brought together, they should lead to a thoughtful reconsideration of priorities for the MAP consistent with realistic projections of future funding levels. A return to fundamentals may lead to a reconsideration of some of the decisions made in haste last August and September. A revised and almost certainly reduced set of performance measures may necessitate revisions to the “Decision Support Guidelines” issued for last summer’s emergency actions. These, in turn, may lead to different choices in monitoring parameters, locations, monitoring frequency, and levels of support. A coordinated analysis of fundamental monitoring needs in support of the CERP and a review of the full extent of restoration-related monitoring efforts in South Florida may also illuminate opportunities for cost-savings and efficiencies not previously recognized.
STATUS OF MODELING EFFORTS IN SUPPORT OF RESTORATION
The NRC committee has previously emphasized the need to develop and thoroughly test integrated or linked hydrologic, water quality, and ecological
modeling tools to integrate available information and examine implications of alternative restoration designs and system operation in the Everglades ecosystem (NRC, 2007, 2008, 2010). These models could provide important tools to guide field research, foster the objective analysis of field data, evaluate restoration benefits and impacts to various ecological attributes and regions, and evaluate tradeoffs associated with restoration alternatives. In particular, NRC (2010) expressed strong criticism, stating that “little recent progress has been made in developing integrated hydrologic, ecological, and biogeochemical models to inform restoration decision making and to provide input for adaptive management.” Meanwhile, budget cuts in both state and federal agencies over the past two years appear to have slowed model development and testing in support of the CERP. In this section, the committee revisits this issue to assess progress in addressing integrated modeling needs.
Linked Ecological Models
Development and refinement of ecological models for the CERP have continued over the past few years with the Joint Ecosystems Modeling group, a partnership of the USGS, National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), USACE, SFWMD, and University of Florida. Table 5-1 shows that progress has been made in developing models that link hydrology with ecology. Twelve of the 19 ecological models listed can be driven by CERP hydrological models (i.e., the South Florida Water Management Model [SFWMM or the 2×2] and the Regional Simulation Model [RSM]) and/or observed hydrological data (i.e., Everglades Depth Estimation Network [EDEN]).
For a model to be utilized for CERP planning or project design, it must be explicitly used to simulate a CERP performance measure or incorporated into a project-specific CERP implementation report. Additionally, multiple levels of review (e.g., by the agency responsible for developing the model, by external experts, by the RECOVER team, and by the USACE) are required for use in CERP benefits analysis, considering new USACE rules for assuring the quality of planning models (USACE, 2011c). As Table 5-1 shows, no ecological models have successfully completed all four steps in the review process with respect to ecological outputs. The Everglades Landscape Model (ELM6), a transient integrated ecological-hydrologic-water quality model, has been approved by the USACE for project-specific use, but only for hydrologic and water quality applications. Two ecological models (Slough Vegetation Performance Measure; Prey-Based Freshwater Fish Density Performance Measure) have completed three of the four review steps, with the fourth currently under way. The fact that none of the
19 ecological models developed has been reviewed and accepted for use for CERP projects and available to support benefits analysis is unfortunate. CERP staff report that eight ecological models, designated “ecological planning tools” (S. Romanach, USGS, personal communication), have been used by project teams (Table 5-1), even though none has cleared all levels of review.
Linked Water Quality Models
As discussed in Chapter 4 of this report (and summarized in Table 4-1), simultaneous improvement of both water quality and hydrology is ideally needed to reverse the decline of key ecosystem attributes. Developing regional coupled hydrologic-water quality modeling capability would provide an important tool for quantitative evaluation of a range of alternative restoration scenarios and their potential short- and long-term effects on biotic and abiotic attributes. Without such modeling tools to foster further examination of scenarios at the interface of water quality and quantity, decision makers are more likely to exercise an abundance of caution with respect to water quality, possibly to the detriment of key ecosystem components driven by the system’s altered hydrology. Unfortunately, little progress has been made in the past two years regarding development and application of the RSMWQ (the water quality engine for the RSM).
The recent use of ELM in the Decomp planning process is a promising step forward. ELM has been used in the Decomp Part 1 project to evaluate hydrologic conditions, water column phosphorus concentrations, and phosphorus accumulation rates in marshes within the Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) with different project configurations to assess how the project will affect water quality within the WCAs. The Decomp project team, however, was constrained to run simulations that assumed all inflows from the STAs to the WCAs entered with a conservative phosphorus concentration of 10 parts per billion (ppb).7 This constraint limits the potential to explore real-world scenarios and their resulting phosphorus distributions within the WCAs. The committee understands that the Consent Decree requires all areas of the WCAs and Everglades National Park to comply with the 10 ppb phosphorus criterion. However, unless a wider range of phosphorus inflows are considered in analyses of possible project scenarios,
7By comparison, the Amended Determination proposed a two-part enforceable framework to meet the geometric mean of 10 ppb in the Everglades Protection Area, with TP concentrations of the STA discharge not to exceed: 1) 18 ppb as an annual flow-weighted mean, and 2) 10 ppb as an annual geometric mean (equal to approximately 12 ppb flow-weighted mean) in more than two consecutive years (EPA, 2010). Under the recently released STA permits, “The discharge must not exceed: (1) 13 parts per billion (ppb) measured as an annual flow-weighted mean (FWM) in more than 3 years out of 5 on a rolling annual basis; and (2) 19 ppb measured as an annual flow-weighted mean in any year” (EPA, 2012).
|Model||Lead (Point of Contact)||Accepts 2X2 Input||Accepts RSM Input|
|Alligator Habitat Suitability Index Model||ENP-SFNRC w/Brandt-Mazzotti (D. Shinde)||Yes||Yes (converted RSM)|
|Amphibian Community Species||JEM-USGS (H. Waddle, S.||Under||Yes (converted|
|Biscayne Bay Nearshore SAV||UM (R. Santos, D. Lirman)||Yes||Yes|
|Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow Hydrologic||USACE/ENP-SFNRC (D.||Yes||Yes|
|Impact Evaluator (HIE)||Donalson)|
|Estuarine Prey Fish Biomass (v.1.0.0)||JEM-Audubon (J. Lorenz, S. Romanach)||No||No|
|Everglades Landscape Model (v.3.8.4)||UF (C. Fitz)||Yes||Yes|
|Everglades Vegetation Landscape Succession (v. 1.1)||ENP-SFNRC (L. Pearlstine)||Yes||Yes (converted RSM)|
|Florida Bay SAV||SFWMD||Yes||Yes|
|Juvenile Spotted Seatrout||NOAA-NMFS (C. Kelble)||Yes||Yes|
|Juvenile Spotted Seatrout||ENP-SFNRC based on Ault et al.||Yes||n/a|
|Prey-Based Freshwater Fish Density||USACE/ENP-SFNRC (J.||Yes||Yes|
|Performance Measure||Trexler, D. Donalson)|
|Roseate Spoonbill Landscape Suitability||JEM- Audubon (J. Lorenz,||No||No|
|Index (v.1.0.0)||S. Romanach)|
|Slough Vegetation Performance Measure||ENP-SFNRC (M. Zimmerman, G. Reynolds)||Yes||Yes|
|Southwest Florida Feasibility Study||UF (F. Mazzotti, L. Brandt)||No||No|
|Amphibian Community Habitat|
|Southwest Florida Feasibility Study||UF (F. Mazzotti, L. Brandt)||No||No|
|Aquatic Fauna Communities Habitat|
|Southwest Florida Feasibility Study||UF (F. Mazzotti, L. Brandt)||No||No|
|Large Mammal Connectivity|
|Southwest Florida Feasibility Study||UF (F. Mazzotti, L. Brandt)||No||No|
|Wading Birds Landscape Suitability Index|
|Wood Stork Foraging Suitability||ENP-SFNRC (L. Pearlstine, A.Lo Galbo, S. Romanach)||Yes||Planned|
a ELM has been approved for water quality and hydrology applications at a project-level for Decomp. This model has not gone through the USACE ecosystem outputs model approval process with regard to ecological parameters, even though the model has been positively reviewed by an independent panel (Mitsch et al., 2007).
NOTE: This table is intended to provide information about ecological models linked with hydrologic models, and whether they have been used in CERP projects. Information is from
|Accepts EDEN Input||Internal (Agency) Review||External Review||RECOVER review||USACE Review||Used By Project|
|No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes for hydro and WQ, No for ecoa||Yes|
federal sources (USACE, NPS, USGS, FWS) and reflects progress as of November 2011. The table was subsequently shared with the SFWMD for review. Models listed here were developed and used after the USACE model review process (USACE, 2011c) went into effect.
including those currently being achieved by the STAs, viable project alternatives may be overlooked. Additionally, project planners and decision makers will lack a full understanding of the implications of delaying hydrologic restoration until the ultimate water quality objectives are met versus proceeding sooner with slightly elevated phosphorus levels.
ELM appears to be the only water quality model that has been approved for use by the USACE and that is actually used in CERP project planning (although not widely so). However, it is not listed among the modeling tools for use in the Central Everglades Planning Project (USACE and SFWMD, 2012). Other water quality models that seem essential to an ongoing Central Everglades Planning Project, such as the Dynamic Model for Stormwater Treatment Areas (DMSTA), have not undergone a formal, external peer review. External peer review is important, particularly for models that are used extensively in the planning process, and peer review of the DMSTA is a high priority.
SCIENCE AND VALUES IN DECISION MAKING
Decision support tools provide an important link between science and decision making and also offer a mechanism to incorporate stakeholder preferences in a formal way to inform decision making. NRC (2010) urged development and use of multi-criteria decision support tools to provide more rigorous scientific support for decision making. In this section the committee discusses the importance of considering stakeholder preferences in addition to science synthesis in decision making and reviews the progress made thus far in developing structured decision support tools to assist CERP decision making.
Decision Making under Risk and Uncertainty
Restoration and management of the Everglades is a major endeavor in decision making under risk and uncertainty. The Everglades is temporally and spatially complex, and meeting CERP goals relies on the successful application of available scientific knowledge to multi-faceted goals for restoration and the integration of the values and priorities of a broad range of stakeholders. Despite the huge body of knowledge acquired on the biotic and abiotic processes underpinning the Everglades, uncertainties about which actions will best promote the goals of the CERP and the effects of such actions on components of the Everglades will always persist. While much is known about the past and current states of the Everglades and the processes that drive change (McVoy et al., 2011; SFWMD, 2011c), uncertainties remain in forecasting the likely consequences of management actions or inaction. For instance, the timescales over which the landscape responds to changes in flow and the difference between degrada-
tion and restoration timescales are still highly uncertain (Larsen et al., 2011) and yet important pieces of information for scheduling management actions and restoration efforts. It may require many decades of experiments and field observations to have all the information in hand to make management decisions with confidence. Meanwhile, conditions within the Everglades may continue to deteriorate, and opportunities for restoration could be lost if the system crosses a threshold from which recovery is impossible with the available resources (Polasky et al., 2011; Suding and Hobbs, 2009). Indeed, both financial and natural resources may disappear.
Effective decision making under risk and uncertainty requires careful consideration of scientific information (or knowledge or evidence) and values (or preferences or utilities). While scientific information is based on objective data or evidence (which may be highly uncertain), values are subjective and will usually differ across stakeholders (Borsuk et al., 2001). This distinction between knowledge and values is important because disagreements and conflicts between stakeholders usually arise because of differently held values, but they are often characterized as disagreements because of uncertainty in knowledge. For example, much of the global debate over climate change was attributed to uncertainty in data when preferences over mitigation strategies were largely at play (Opotow and Weiss, 2000; Stoll-Kleemann et al., 2001). It is only when stakeholder values are explicit that negotiation to resolve conflict can be effective. When conflict is inappropriately or wholly attributed to uncertainty in knowledge, the only course of action to resolve the conflict is to keep the “status quo” while more data is collected (Peterson et al., 2005). Stakeholders who prefer the status quo have an incentive to conceal their values by arguing that more time is needed to reduce uncertainty. Stakeholder values are a critically important part of the decision equation (Keeney, 1996), and yet this aspect of decision making is often given short shrift.
Multicriteria Decision Analysis
The CERP requires input and support from multiple stakeholders, who bring different perspectives and values, opinions on desirable outcomes, suggested alternatives, and views about the attributes that the most desirable alternative should have to satisfy a specified goal. Multicriteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) is a framework that aims to articulate these differences and organize them into a coherent framework for decision support. MCDA techniques are usually based on three main components: (1) a decision goal, (2) a list of criteria or objectives that are considered, at least in part, to be necessary to meet that goal, and (3) a list of alternatives from which the best option, or set of options, is selected to reach the decision goal. MCDA uses both scientific knowledge and individual
and social values to inform decision making in a structured framework. It can also assist in weighing actions that need to satisfy multiple objectives and has been recommended for this purpose in previous NRC reports (NRC, 2010).
The CERP has made tentative positive steps toward developing MCDA for structured decision support as a response to the recommendations made in NRC (2010). An interagency working group (the Task Force’s Working Group and Science Coordination Group) has considered a framework for MCDA and structured decision support based on established theory and successful practical examples with a view to weighing multiple objectives. Some components of the framework have been identified and are currently being explored in a limited and informal way. These include alternatives analysis, performance measures, and linked ecological/hydrological models to inform the outcomes of different management alternatives that address the issue of water quality and quantity. While stakeholder engagement to identify social values has not yet been incorporated, strategies have been tentatively explored to involve stakeholders in decision analysis in a meaningful way. However, the initial enthusiastic activity has lost momentum with staffing changes, budget cuts, and new agency priorities stalling this promising effort.
A collaborative effort is also under way with the USACE Engineer Research and Development Center, RECOVER team members, Everglades scientists, CERP managers, and University of Florida researchers to develop quantitative decision analysis tools to support evaluation and assessment of performance measures and indicators focusing on adaptive management in WCA-3. The case study will be based on regulation of water depth, duration, nutrients, and flow in relation to ridge and slough, tree islands, and aquatic fauna restoration indicators. It will use existing models to simulate the potential outcomes of management alternatives under different future conditions in a way that informs decision making under uncertainty; a related framework for Everglades restoration appears in Fitz et al. (2011). Water quality issues and stakeholder values are not included in the first prototype but could be included later, pending funding and stakeholder buy-in. Funding for this effort ends in 2012, and further funds to extend this work are not expected. This effort represents promising progress in developing structured decision support for weighing multiple objectives and criteria for CERP activities. Similar elements for structured decision support are proposed for the Central Everglades Planning Project, with notable stakeholder participation emulating the River of Grass participatory process.
Important steps have been made toward establishing structured decision support tools for components of the CERP with an emphasis on weighing multiple objectives, and a wide range of stakeholders are now engaged in the Central Everglades Planning Project. However, transparency in the ways in which stakeholder preferences and values will inform decision making has been
lacking, resulting in a degree of opacity in how decisions are actually made. Even though the River of Grass participatory process is considered a model of stakeholder participation, it is unclear how that process, if allowed to come to completion, would have translated stakeholder values to inform decisions in a transparent and systematic way. Stakeholder engagement appears to be a prominent and promising feature of the Central Everglades Planning Project, but it remains unclear how stakeholder values will be systematically incorporated into the decision support framework. Current directions in the development of MCDA in the CERP to support decision making acknowledge the importance of stakeholder values and preferences but do not make the important step of highlighting mechanisms for their formal inclusion in structured decision support. Failure to incorporate stakeholder preferences and values in a meaningful and transparent way can (and does) result in conflict, dissent, and, in the extreme case, legal action. The values across the range of stakeholders under risk and uncertainty are as complex and multi-faceted as the science that informs the CERP and should be addressed as such (i.e., they need to be made transparent and systematic and be explicitly incorporated into decision processes). MCDA is one of many frameworks that can be used, in conjunction with mechanisms for building trust and opportunities for deliberation and negotiation, to weigh the effects of different stakeholder values and preferences on CERP outcomes.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Recent science synthesis efforts represent an impressive accomplishment, although clearer acknowledgment of conflicts and tradeoffs will be essential to maximize restoration success. Science synthesis is important to advance understanding among the scientific community, inform policy decisions for managers, and translate important findings for the interested public. Collectively, the recent science synthesis efforts, including the 2009 SSR, the STKG report, and the SERES project, among others, successfully address all three of these audiences. Together, they present a relatively consistent view of the scientific principles relevant to the Everglades restoration. If the best aspects of these synthesis efforts can be combined and continued in an efficient, ongoing manner, then the effort can help policy makers coalesce around a common vision of scientific principles, key uncertainties, and challenges. In the future, the effectiveness of the synthesis effort could be improved by explicitly addressing tradeoffs, conflicts, and commonalities among water quality, water quantity, and ecosystem responses.
A comprehensive assessment of monitoring efforts is necessary to ensure that fundamental short- and long-term needs of the CERP are met and critical gaps are addressed in the most cost-effective manner. The recent large and sudden cuts to the RECOVER MAP pose a risk to system-wide assessment, which
is important to the success of Everglades restoration. However, NRC committees have previous voiced concern about the ambitious list of indicators for monitoring relative to the likelihood of sustained funding. Recurring evaluations of all monitoring (not just RECOVER-funded monitoring) in support of the CERP should also assess the usefulness of existing datasets and performance measures, consider emerging priorities, and explore opportunities for improved efficiency.
Progress has been made in the development of linked hydrologic and ecological modeling tools, but they remain largely unavailable to project planning, limiting the ability to evaluate differential benefits and impacts of restoration alternatives. No ecological models have been approved for use in benefits analysis for CERP, even though integrated ecological models provide an important tool to assist with project planning, particularly to assess the responses of critical performance measures to project design alternatives and to understand the restoration tradeoffs implicit in alternative plan approaches. If ecological models are to be available to support restoration planning and assessment, then the CERP model development, testing, and review process should be accelerated so that models can move more quickly from development and testing in the research domain to application in support of restoration.
Integrated, or linked, water quality and ecological models are useful tools for exploring the benefits and impacts of project alternatives that affect water quality, water quantity, and habitat. To identify project designs and implementation sequences that maximize restoration benefits and assess potential impacts, project-planning teams need to analyze a range of inflow water quality conditions, including those that exceed targeted levels. The legal requirement that water quality constraints be met should not limit the modeling analyses of restoration alternatives under a range of conditions. Being overly cautious with respect to water quality modeling could prevent a thorough exploration of restoration options and limit the understanding of water quality constraints in hydrologic restoration projects.
Transparent and systematic mechanisms to build trust and incorporate a range of stakeholder preferences relevant to CERP implementation into decision support frameworks would help to clarify and reduce conflict and enhance transparency. The committee acknowledges recent steps toward establishing formal structured decision support tools for components of the CERP with an emphasis on weighing multiple objectives. Decision support frameworks that build trust and provide opportunities for deliberation and negotiation can also assist in identifying and reducing sources of conflict, although they cannot, on their own, eliminate persistent conflict. Hence, additional mechanisms may be needed to resolve conflict or at the very least, a strategy should be set in place for moving forward in the face of conflict while considering conflicting values, preferences, and objectives.