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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25853.
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Page 1
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25853.
×
Page 2
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25853.
×
Page 3
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25853.
×
Page 4
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25853.
×
Page 5
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25853.
×
Page 6
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25853.
×
Page 7
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25853.
×
Page 8
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25853.
×
Page 9

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Summary During the past century, the Everglades, one of the world’s treasured ecosystems, has been dramatically altered by drainage and water management infrastructure to improve flood management, urban water supply, and agricultural production. The remnants of the original Everglades now compete for water with urban and agricultural interests and are impaired by contaminated runoff from these two sectors. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), a joint effort launched by the state and the federal government in 2000, seeks to reverse the decline of the ecosystem. The multibillion-dollar project was originally envisioned as a 30- to 40-year effort to achieve ecological restoration by reestablishing the natural hydrologic characteristics of the Everglades, where feasible, and to create a water system that serves the needs of both the natural and the human systems of South Florida. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine established the Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress in 2004 in response to a request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with support from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the U.S. Department of the Interior, based on Congress’s mandate in the Water Resources Development Act of 2000. The committee is charged to submit biennial reports that review the CERP’s progress in restoring the natural ecosystem. This is the committee’s eighth report. Each report provides an update on progress toward natural system restoration during the previous 2 years, describes substantive accomplishments (Chapter 3), and reviews developments in research, monitoring, and assessment that inform restoration decision making (Chapters 3 and 6). The committee also identifies issues for in-depth evaluation given new CERP program developments, policy initiatives, or improvements in scientific knowledge that have implications for restoration progress (see Chapter 1 for the committee’s full statement of task). For the 2020 report, the committee reviewed the recently developed Combined Operational Plan (COP), which is a prerequisite for CERP progress in the central Everglades (Chapter 4), and examined issues facing the northern and southern estuaries, including priorities for science to support restoration decision making (Chapter 5). Additionally, the committee examined the capacity of CERP monitoring, modeling, and synthesis to support decision makers (Chapter 6). OVERALL EVALUATION OF PROGRESS AND CHALLENGES Over the past 2 years, CERP implementation has proceeded at a steady pace, with construction ongoing on six major projects (Figure S-1), supported by historic levels of funding from both state and federal partner agencies. After more than two decades of work to complete two major non-CERP projects, the Combined Operational Plan has been completed, delivering significant benefits to Water Conservation Area 3 and Everglades National Park, setting the stage for restoration in the central Everglades and enabling the opportunity to learn about system response to restoration and enhance future CERP benefits. At the same time, the South Florida estuaries remain under threat from habitat degradation, water quality issues, and harmful algal blooms; some of these threats fall outside of the direct influence of CERP and may limit the capacity to achieve CERP goals. With several projects nearing completion, the CERP is now pivoting from a focus primarily on project planning and construction toward an expanding emphasis on operational decisions, evaluating restoration success, adaptive management, and learning. This transition requires a strong organizational foundation for science, systematic monitoring and assessment, effective communication, and new strategies to support decision making. From this analysis, key principles emerge that are relevant across different projects and regional contexts. First, effective monitoring and ongoing data analysis are critical Prepublication Copy 1

Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020 to support assessments of restoration progress, learning, and adaptive management. Synthesis, improved integration of modeling and monitoring, and enhanced applications of modeling tools can be used to turn available information into better understanding to evaluate tradeoffs and strengthen decision making. Finally, strong science leadership and appropriate staffing are key elements of an organizational infrastructure to maximize learning and to support more nimble decision making. Investments in the science and decision-making infrastructure for the CERP would improve the value of information developed through monitoring, modeling, and synthesis and lead to more effective restoration outcomes. FIGURE S-1 Locations and status of CERP projects. SOURCE: International Mapping Associates. Reprinted with permission; copyright 2021, International Mapping Associates. 2 Prepublication Copy

Summary RESTORATION PROGRESS In Chapter 3, the committee outlines the major accomplishments of restoration, with an emphasis on natural system restoration progress from the CERP, and discusses issues that may affect progress. State and federal funding for the CERP has increased significantly in recent years, which expedites the pace of project construction. Following a period of historically low state and federal funding for the CERP (2012-2016), state funding for the CERP has approximately doubled to more than $200 million per year. With federal CERP funding of $247 million in FY 2020, CERP funding has exceeded the original vision of $200 million per year from both the state and the federal government for the first time since the program’s inception, and similar funding levels are anticipated in FY 2021. With this increased funding, CERP projects can be completed more quickly, resulting in faster restoration benefits and potentially mitigating ongoing ecosystem degradation. The 2019 Integrated Delivery Schedule (IDS) does not effectively communicate likely restoration schedules and priorities consistent with realistic funding constraints. The Integrated Delivery Schedule is a communication tool across agencies that provides information to guide project sequencing and budgeting. The anticipated future progress of CERP projects and the relationships among other large non-CERP restoration projects are depicted in the IDS. The 2019 IDS is based on the fastest possible construction schedule, given project dependencies, regardless of budget; the IDS assumes an average funding of more than $800 million per year for the first 5 years (nearly double the record budget in FY 2020). These assumptions may be acceptable for the purpose of explaining the benefits of increased funding, but they fail to support the difficult decisions that must be made when future funding is inadequate to meet these optimistic projections. CERP planners, in some simple alternative scenarios, assume that reduced funding simply stretches the timeline of the IDS proportionally. However, an optimal project prioritization is likely to be time dependent. In light of ongoing degradation of the system and peat collapse in the southern Everglades, it is probably unwise for all projects to be delayed equally with reduced funding. Rather, some projects should be prioritized based on project benefits in relation to ongoing system degradation. Uncertainty of funding (which occurs on a regular basis) necessitates evaluation of realistic and alternative levels of funding with consideration of the many time-dependent factors that may affect an optimal project prioritization. Development of the IDS could serve as a means to debate these challenging decisions with the multiple CERP agencies and stakeholders, as well as communicate the effects of schedule changes on the nature and timing of anticipated ecosystem benefits in the context of current ecosystem trends and ongoing pressures such as sea-level rise and harmful algal blooms. Signs of restoration progress are evident from three CERP project increments operating to date, but limitations in monitoring, analysis, and communication of results have impeded quantitative assessment and communication of restoration benefits. Increments of the Picayune Strand and Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands (Phase 1) projects and nearly all of the envisioned C-111 Spreader Canal (Western) project have been operating for years, providing an important opportunity to learn from those results and communicate those incremental benefits to the public. Results from monitoring in Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands and Picayune Strand show positive trends and qualitative evidence of effects from implementation. Operations have been refined in the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands project to improve restoration outcomes (although some benefits remain limited by lack of available freshwater). Assessments of restoration progress continue to be stymied by a lack of systematic analyses of quantitative results from early indicators of restoration relative to expected outcomes. Without this information, it is difficult to assess and communicate progress. This limitation applies to all three projects in some dimension, but is most evident in the C-111 Spreader Canal and Picayune Strand projects, and improvements are needed. Understanding the challenges and opportunities for improved monitoring will lead to better restoration assessment. Important opportunities for learning from monitoring at Picayune Strand are being missed that could inform current and future project management decisions across CERP and non-CERP agencies. Understanding the response of vegetation and fauna to restoration at Picayune Strand is Prepublication Copy 3

Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020 hindered by invasive species and fire management. Widespread drainage of the area allowed invasive species to become established. Project managers should revisit the project goals and expectations, potentially shifting the ecological objectives toward improving conditions for desirable species and increasing resilience across the region to respond to climate change. Improved coordination across CERP and non-CERP agencies regarding fire management is needed. The monitoring plan should also be redesigned to support adaptive management of the project. An acknowledgment that hydrologic restoration is unlikely to replicate predrainage ecology could help agencies prioritize additional management actions, including fire management, necessary to achieve these revised goals. Stormwater treatment areas (STAs) have been an effective approach to mitigate total phosphorus inputs to the Everglades Protection Area, but recent high concentrations in STA-2 effluent, several years after implementation of Restoration Strategies features for the central flowway, raise concerns. The SFWMD 2018 Science Plan provides recommendations for evaluating factors to improve the performance of STAs that could be helpful in achieving lower effluent concentrations of total phosphorus and guide future operations. The SFWMD is planning to complete Restoration Strategies by 2025, and has until 2027 to demonstrate compliance. However, intensive efforts now to analyze and optimize performance and address shortfalls could help avoid delays in meeting the water quality criteria and delivering new water to the central Everglades. With heightened concerns about elevated nutrient loading and harmful algal blooms in the northern estuaries, the state is increasingly interested in water quality management of contaminants beyond phosphorus, especially for nitrogen. Research to improve understanding of nitrogen retention and loss in STAs and the potential to enhance nitrogen removal would inform decisions on the management of harmful algal blooms. Phased implementation of major features of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWRP) will help accommodate the numerous uncertainties associated with aquifer storage and recovery (ASR), a technology that remains unproven at the proposed scale of deployment. The objectives of the LOWRP include reducing damaging discharges to the northern estuaries and improving lake levels in Lake Okeechobee. The tentatively selected plan proposes reduced above-ground water storage relative to the original CERP vision with the bulk of water storage provided by ASR wells. To address critical unknowns while moving forward with restoration, installation should proceed in increments of two to five ASR wells with postinstallation monitoring conducted to address outstanding questions related to the quality of recharged and recovered waters, ecological effects, and recovery efficiencies. Because above-ground storage provided by the wetland attenuation feature is small and its benefits are largely linked to the performance of ASR, the recently proposed schedule that postpones construction of the wetland attenuation feature until the ASR uncertainties are resolved is appropriate. Prior to construction, the contributions of the wetland attenuation feature to LOWRP’s objectives of regulating lake water levels and estuary discharges should also be clarified and considered in the context of its cost. The Everglades remain vulnerable overall to continuing degradation. The Restoration, Coordination, and Verification (RECOVER) 2019 System Status Report noted the dire condition of the Everglades ecosystem, with a “fair” rating of conditions systemwide and “poor” conditions in the Southern Coastal Systems. Overall, the CERP projects operating to date have been limited and are disconnected on the landscape, leading to limited detectable responses of restoration at a systems scale. However, with several large reservoirs under construction in the northern Everglades and the Combined Operational Plan in place in the southern part of the ecosystem, substantial restoration benefits are expected in the years ahead. The System Status Report provides a useful compilation of data, but the lack of reporting of long-term trends and influencing factors limits its value to adaptive management and operational decision making. In the 2019 System Status Report, RECOVER compiles and presents a substantial amount of data to document the status and trends of the Everglades restoration for the period 2012-2017. Rigorous long-term trend analysis was not completed, making it more difficult to assess restoration progress and the causes of any observed changes. Synthesis of the findings of more rigorous multivariate analyses are needed in future system status reports to effectively leverage the results and develop 4 Prepublication Copy

Summary improved systems-level understanding that can be used to inform future decisions. The Everglades Report Card, included as a stand-alone graphical summary of ecological conditions, represents a positive step in public communications, although methodological issues in some of the scoring approaches will need to be remedied in future reports. Combined Operational Plan (COP) In Chapter 4, the committee reviews the COP, a new, comprehensive, integrated water control plan that defines the operations of the recently completed Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park (Mod Waters) and C-111 South Dade projects. These non-CERP projects are called foundation projects because the CERP builds upon the benefits that they provide. The COP is expected to provide substantial hydrologic and ecological benefits to Water Conservation Area (WCA) 3A and Everglades National Park, although the full benefits from the Mod Waters and C-111 South Dade projects afforded by the plan have not been quantified. The benefits of the preferred plan are documented relative to a baseline condition of field test Increment 1.2, which itself provides substantial benefits above the prior regional operational plan, using the Mod Waters and C-111 South Dade infrastructure. The benefits provided by Increment 1.2 have not been fully quantified but are estimated to be as large as those documented for the COP. Quantifying the full benefits of the Mod Waters and C-111 South Dade projects would help stakeholders understand the expected effects of these public investments. The COP preferred alternative is projected to increase annual flow into Everglades National Park by 28 percent (relative to the Increment 1.2 baseline) and increase the percentage of flow into Northeast Shark Slough from 58 to 77 percent, more closely approximating historic flow patterns and rehydrating its wetlands. The plan is also projected to reduce tree island inundation in WCA-3 by 24 percent and provide an additional 36,000 acre-feet per year to eastern Florida Bay. Habitat conditions for the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow are projected to improve in some areas and be negatively impacted in others. To avoid constraints on operations imposed to protect the Cape Sable seaside sparrow that have limited the restoration success of previous water management plans, additional mitigation strategies may be needed to ensure that sparrows occupy new habitat created by the COP to offset anticipated losses of current sparrow habitat. Flood risk management is the primary constraint to increased restoration benefits from the COP and is likely to pose a major limitation to increased CERP flows in the central Everglades unless additional flood risk mitigation or seepage control efforts are made. Despite large investments in land acquisition and flood mitigation projects in the 8.5 square-mile area, a residential area located west of the eastern protective levee, flood risk management in this area continues to limit restoration benefits from the COP. Although Mod Waters infrastructure was designed for a maximum L-29 canal stage of 8.5 feet National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD), Tamiami Trail roadway protection and flood risk management requirements for the 8.5 square-mile area currently limit the number of days the L-29 canal can be operated at a stage above 8.3 feet NGVD. CERP projects and Tamiami Trail Next Steps are designed for a stage of 9.7 feet NVGD in the L-29 canal. Without additional flood mitigation projects or seepage control efforts, flood risk management on the eastern edge of Everglades National Park could greatly limit the benefits of future CERP projects to increase flow to the central Everglades. Efforts to expedite additional seepage management features or other flood risk management strategies will be critical to providing new water to the remnant Everglades. The process to develop the COP was systematic and comprehensive, but three considerations could improve future planning efforts: transparency in multiobjective trade-off analysis, characterization of model uncertainty, and evaluation of performance under future conditions. The COP process involved field testing and rigorous model analyses to develop and assess alternatives using performance measures related to ecological benefits and flood risk management, covering a large area from the water conservation areas to Florida Bay. However, trade-offs among various objectives and other “planning considerations and concerns,” such as flood risk management, were neither transparent nor well documented, leaving stakeholders unclear if ecological objectives were Prepublication Copy 5

Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020 compromised for other considerations. Lack of characterization of model uncertainty limits the potential application of adaptive management, because when observations fall outside of model projections, it is unclear whether this is due to model error or if the system is not responding as expected. Finally, analysis of the COP under a range of possible future conditions, rather than a single historical period, would provide a more realistic estimate of the likely future performance. The COP offers a remarkable opportunity to learn about restoration, inform the design and operation of CERP projects, and increase the benefits of the COP through adaptive management. The COP marks a pivot from project development to the task of optimizing the performance of new features to achieve ecological objectives under competing interests and uncertain future conditions. Effective management of the system will require assimilation of observations and expectations, and adaptive responses to new information. The COP Adaptive Management and Monitoring Plan contributes to these needs. The plan was thoughtfully developed, used a logical approach to identify the highest priority uncertainties, and provided clear monitoring thresholds that trigger additional management actions. The plan provides a framework to ensure that benefits from restoration projects are realized and offers management actions to accommodate changes in the ambient environmental conditions. Sizable potential exists for COP monitoring and assessment to inform the CERP program more broadly. COP monitoring data can be used to examine deficiencies in model predictions and improve the predictive capacity of modeling tools. It can also be used to reveal gaps in understanding of the ecosystem and its response to restored hydrology that have systemwide applications, including beginning to test the fundamental assumption that “getting the water right” will result in the desired ecological restoration. Scientific expertise is essential to support COP adaptive management, but lack of staff support and dedicated resources could limit the potential benefits of the adaptive management program. A structured process to facilitate the assessment of monitoring data and effective communication with decision makers has not been identified. It will be important that modeling tools and staff be made available to analyze and learn from the COP results and determine which outcomes represent significant deviations from expectations. Experienced staff with dedicated resources will be needed to provide routine multiagency review of assessment results and develop recommendations for management. Furthermore, the evidence-based decision making required to achieve COP objectives will benefit from programmatic linkages to share decision-relevant information from other CERP projects. ESTUARIES In light of recent events affecting the northern and southern estuaries, including seagrass die-off and harmful algal blooms, the committee examines the key issues facing Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay, the Caloosahatchee River Estuary, and the St. Lucie Estuary in Chapter 5. The CERP will help address freshwater inflow concerns in all of the estuaries but it is only part of the solution. CERP ecological restoration goals, particularly in the northern estuaries and Biscayne Bay, cannot be met if water quality and associated algal blooms, which are outside of the direct purview of the CERP, are not addressed. CERP projects primarily aim to improve hydrologic and ecological conditions in the estuaries by enhancing the volume and timing of freshwater inflows, thereby bettering salinity conditions. However, additional hydrologic restoration beyond those planned to date for the CERP may be needed to meet stakeholder expectations for estuary recovery (e.g., reducing high-volume flows derived from local watersheds in the northern estuaries). Some CERP projects are expected to reduce nutrient loads, but the water quality components of CERP projects represent only minor aspects of the steps needed to meet water quality criteria in the estuaries. Requirements for compliance with the Clean Water Act to address pollution and water quality fall to the state and not to the CERP. Public expectations for improved estuarine conditions, such as healthy seagrass meadows, improved oyster habitat, and control of harmful algal blooms, extend beyond what the CERP alone can achieve and require both CERP actions and water quality improvements by non-CERP efforts. CERP planning has not rigorously considered the potential impacts of impaired water quality on its ecological goals. Understanding the collective impacts of hydrology and water quality in meeting restoration goals 6 Prepublication Copy

Summary and stakeholder expectations is essential to support ongoing CERP and non-CERP management decisions. If the impacts of water quality are not well understood, CERP water management projects may be unfairly blamed for failing to meet expected outcomes. CERP goals for the southern estuaries should be revisited and clarified in light of improved ecosystem understanding and modeling capabilities. Early formulations of the CERP had qualitative objectives for Biscayne and Florida Bays. Freshwater flow targets linked to spatially specific ecological goals were never developed for use in CERP planning because predrainage flows were not well understood and model predictions were poor along the coastal boundaries. For example, in Biscayne Bay, nearshore salinity goals were developed, but the absence of freshwater flow targets complicates an understanding of what is attainable. In Florida Bay, the authorized CERP and non-CERP projects do little to address the specific region where historic seagrass die-offs occurred. Analysis of ways to optimize CERP outcomes with available flows requires more spatially targeted goals for the region. Analysis of what can be achieved through the CERP is essential to manage stakeholder expectations and, if appropriate, motivate additional non-CERP efforts. Additionally, these analyses will facilitate evaluations of trade-offs in water use among other water users and other regions of the ecosystem. Existing data and tools should be used to improve science support for decision making across the estuaries. The relevant agencies have a long history of monitoring, but existing modeling tools and data sets are underutilized. Models and monitoring data offer opportunities to rigorously examine restoration alternatives and constraints, better understand trade-offs, and develop management strategies to enhance restoration benefits. CERP and non-CERP agencies will need an advanced set of predictive tools, developed and implemented through effective coordination among scientists and managers, to better support critical water management decisions ahead. High-priority science and modeling needs include • Spatially explicit water quality models and a sustained program of observation and research to build toward a predictive harmful algal bloom modeling toolkit for the northern estuaries. • Watershed loading and water quality models to predict effects of salinity, water quality, and light limitation on the viability of seagrass in Biscayne Bay. • Spatially explicit and mechanistic biological models (e.g., seagrass, oyster), supported by appropriately scaled and sustained monitoring programs for the northern estuaries that can capture the quantitative basis for relationships between freshwater flows, water quality drivers, and biological outcomes of interest. • Predictive tools to identify thresholds and tipping points in all the estuaries, such as the complex factors associated with algal blooms and seagrass die-off. • A southern Everglades transition-zone observational and modeling program that supports project planning and can couple regional hydrologic models, including groundwater–surface water exchange, with spatially explicit estuarine hydrodynamic and salinity models. • Integration of modeling and observations across the entire southern inland and coastal system to evaluate cross-project synergies and ecological responses (e.g., the ecological response of Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay to enhanced seepage management). Clarity in critical future water management decisions can help prioritize additional research, monitoring, modeling, and synthesis efforts to better support CERP and non-CERP initiatives. Open communication and cooperation between subregion research, observational, and model development teams are needed to facilitate improved model coupling, accelerate knowledge gains, and allow models to collectively address trade-off decisions. Advancement in modeling could benefit from improved coordination across the estuaries to accelerate knowledge gains and allow broader regional approaches to address trade-offs in decisions. Climate change and sea-level rise will have major effects on the estuaries, and those effects need to be better understood to inform management decisions and develop strategies that will Prepublication Copy 7

Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020 provide long-term restoration benefits. Terrestrial hydrologic monitoring, synthesis, and modeling in South Florida are relatively advanced, but this toolkit has not been applied to investigate the effects of climate change on the human and natural systems of the South Florida Everglades and associated estuaries. In the northern estuaries, estuarine hydrodynamic modeling is advanced, but in Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay, improvements to these modeling capabilities are needed. Improved modeling of coastal boundaries is required to understand the implications of sea level rise on groundwater and surface water inflows and saltwater intrusion. Additional research is needed to extend climate scenario predictions from effects on hydrology to effects on water quality and ecosystems. To ready the toolkit for this exercise, investments recommended above to make water quality and biological models increasingly mechanistic and spatially explicit will also serve to credibly predict impacts from climate change stressors. This information can then be used to examine the long-term performance of projects and identify possible adaptive management strategies or design alterations to increase ecosystem resilience. SCIENCE SUPPORT FOR DECISION MAKING The value of science—especially systems thinking and analysis—becomes even more important as the CERP pivots from a focus on planning and advancing individual projects to operations and management of the partially restored system. The transition from a focus almost exclusively on multiyear CERP planning efforts to providing support for ongoing adaptive management of numerous projects in parallel with ongoing planning of remaining projects will necessitate strengthened science support for decision making. CERP managers face an array of restoration decisions, including adaptive management based on assessments of restoration performance, near-term operational adjustments, project sequencing, and investments in additional science. The best science should be actively integrated and synthesized to inform these decisions so that restoration benefits are maximized and opportunities for learning across both CERP and non-CERP projects are not lost. New and renewed strategies for monitoring, modeling, and synthesis can strengthen the science support for these decisions. Some monitoring programs are falling short of their potential, and the value of data sets for decision making is being limited by lack of strategic monitoring design targeted at the information most needed by decision makers. Decisions are best supported when monitoring is strategically designed to address identified management decisions and key management questions, considering natural variability and sampling constraints. Assessing how current monitoring supports decision needs (e.g., adaptive management, operations, and science needs) can focus resources and ensure appropriate data are being collected as the program transitions from a focus on project planning to also support operations and management of the partially restored system. To better support decision making, the use of models should be expanded, including applications such as assessments of restoration progress and evaluations of future scenarios and vulnerabilities. The CERP has invested significantly to develop a robust set of modeling tools to guide the restoration process, but to date these models have been used mainly for project planning. Restoration decision making would benefit if the CERP could apply its modeling tools to also investigate questions related to restoration progress, adaptive management, and potential future vulnerabilities. Consideration should be given to how these modeling tools can further benefit CERP decision making, including using models to increase understanding of the Everglades ecosystem and its response to changing external conditions. The increased use of models will require additional human and technical capacity for model application and development. A concerted effort to systematically compare and integrate models and observations is needed to improve decision making. Observations should be compared with model results to better understand model errors and their cause, and to improve model performance. The uncertainty in model predictions should be quantified and used to assess the implications of model uncertainty on decisions. Assimilation of observations and models can also be used to create a more comprehensive view of the current state of the system and can enhance the understanding of the effects of CERP amid natural variability. 8 Prepublication Copy

Summary A list of priority synthesis topics should be developed annually to advance synthesis in a coordinated way and increase system understanding for management needs. The list should consider the types of synthesis needed to support decision making, the data and information expected to be available, strategies for catalyzing the synthesis, and estimates of resource needs. The skills and expertise of existing synthesis centers, as well as Everglades science experts, should be leveraged to support CERP synthesis needs. A renewed commitment to best practices in data management from all participants in CERP data collection would better support the value of data to support decision making and promote more comprehensive and nimble synthesis efforts. The use of data to support all types of decision making depends upon effective data management, quality assurance systems, and ease of access to a variety of users. All participants in CERP data collection activities should be required to abide by data quality assurance programs and contribute metadata and data to a central and publicly accessible data management repository in a reasonable time frame. A nimble organizational infrastructure for science is needed to support restoration decision making in light of the CERP’s transition toward operations and adaptive management of multiple completed projects. Information alone does not guarantee effective decision making. Utilizing and integrating scientific information into decision making at appropriate times and in relevant ways is crucial. This infrastructure should include three key elements: • Adequate staffing of appropriately trained scientists that can respond to management needs by analyzing, synthesizing, and communicating evolving relevant scientific information. • Continuity of expertise to support adaptive management throughout the life cycle of restoration projects, bringing technical expertise developed during planning to bear on data analysis and assessment of restoration progress toward goals. • Strong science leadership to provide an efficient and direct linkage between decision makers who need timely summaries of ongoing work and emerging issues and scientists conducting research, modeling, and monitoring. Strong science leadership is also needed to guide future investments in monitoring, modeling, and synthesis toward critical decisions and to help catalyze these efforts. Prepublication Copy 9

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During the past century, the Everglades, one of the world's treasured ecosystems, has been dramatically altered by drainage and water management infrastructure to improve flood management, urban water supply, and agricultural production. The remnants of the original Everglades now compete for water with urban and agricultural interests and are impaired by contaminated runoff from these two sectors. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), a joint effort launched by the state and the federal government in 2000, seeks to reverse the decline of the ecosystem. The multibillion-dollar project was originally envisioned as a 30- to 40-year effort to achieve ecological restoration by reestablishing the natural hydrologic characteristics of the Everglades, where feasible, and to create a water system that serves the needs of both the natural and the human systems of South Florida.

In establishing the CERP, Congress also requested that an independent scientific review be conducted on progress toward restoration with biennial reports. The National Academies' Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration Progress has provided biennial reviews of restoration progress and advice on scientific and engineering issues that may impact progress since 2004. This eighth study of the series describes substantive accomplishments over the past 2 years and reviews developments in research, monitoring, and assessment that inform restoration decision making. Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review - 2020 also reviews the recently developed Combined Operational Plan, which is a prerequisite for CERP progress in the central Everglades, and examines issues facing the northern and southern estuaries, including priorities for science to support restoration decision making.

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