Development of a Long-term Sampling Network to Monitor Restoration Success in the Southwest Coastal Everglades: Vegetation, Hydrology, and Sediments

Fact Sheet 2004-3015




Introduction and History Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm, crossed the southern Florida peninsula on the morning of August 24, 1992 (Fig. 1). Following the storm, the National Park Service conducted an environmental damage assessment to gauge the storm's impacts on the natural resources of south Florida Park Service holdings (Pimm et al., 1994). Although hurricanes have impacted Park Service lands such as the Everglades in the past (Houston and Powell, 2003), no systematic, permanent sampling scheme has been established to monitor long-term recovery (or lack thereof) following disturbance. In October 1992, vegetation monitoring plots were established in heavily damaged areas of mangrove forest on the southwest coast of the Everlgades, along the Lostmans and Broad Rivers (Smith et al., 1994, see Fig. 2). As the permanent plot network was being established, funding was awarded for the South Florida Global Climate Change project (SOFL-GCC). This led to the establishment of a network of hydrological monitoring stations (Anderson and Smith, 2004). Finally, sediment elevation tables (SETs) were installed at many locations. SETs provide the means to measure very small changes (2 mm) in the sediment surface elevation accurately over time (Cahoon et al., 2002). We also set up marker horizons to measure accretion of sediment at each site (Smith and Cahoon, 2003). Sampling sites were located along three transects extending from upstream freshwater wetlands to downstream saltwater wetlands along the Shark, Lostmans and Chatham Rivers in Everglades National Park (Fig. 2). While we were developing our sampling network for basic scientific research needs, concern mounted over the health of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem and in particular over the influence of decreased freshwater flows (Smith et al., 1989). Ecosystem restoration planning was begun, resulting in the multi-agency, $8 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Our co-located sampling networks Fig. 3) allow us to track the interaction of hydrology, sediment, and vegetation over time, and will provide the opportunity to monitor the progress of the Everglades restoration and to gauge its success. Our earlier research questions have been modified over time to place a major emphasis on CERP needs, while still recognizing the importance of other processes, including disturbance and sea-level rise. Our research addresses processes relevant to the following restoration and related questions: * How will increasing freshwater flow affect wetland primary production? * Will increasing freshwater inflow alter nutrient availability? * Does recovery following disturbance in mangroves depend on freshwater inflow? * Will the position of vegetation ecotones change in response to upstream water management? * What will be the influence of global climate change, such as sea-level rise, on the Everglades restoration? * Will processes of wetlands soil formation be altered by sea-level rise and changed freshwater inflow?

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Development of a Long-term Sampling Network to Monitor Restoration Success in the Southwest Coastal Everglades: Vegetation, Hydrology, and Sediments
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4 p.