The ultimate goal of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is to restore and preserve the unique ecosystems of South Florida, including the estuaries. Understanding the effect of salinity and temperature changes, beyond typical oscillations, on the biota of South Florida's estuaries is a necessary component of achieving the goal of restoring the estuaries. The U.S. Geological Survey has been actively involved in researching the history of the South Florida Ecosystem, to provide targets, performance measures, and baseline data for restoration managers. These experiments addressed two aspects of ecosystem history research: 1) determining the utility of using molluscan shells as recorders of change in water chemistry parameters, primarily salinity, and 2) enhancing our in situ observations on modern assemblages by exceeding typically observed aquatic conditions. This set of experiments expanded our understanding of the effects of salinity, temperature and other water chemistry parameters on the reproduction, growth and overall survivability of key species of mollusks used in interpreting sediment core data. Observations on mollusks, plants and microbes made as part of these experiments have further refined our knowledge and understanding of the effects of ecosystem feedback and the role salinity and temperature play in ecosystem stability. The results have demonstrated the viability of several molluscan species as indicators of atypical salinity, and possibly temperature, modulations. For example Cerithium muscarum and Bulla striata demonstrated an ability to withstand a broad salinity and temperature range, with reproduction occurring in atypically high salinities and temperatures. These experiments also provided calibration data for the shell biogeochemistry of Chione cancellata and the possible use of this species as a water chemistry recorder. Observations made in the mesocosms, on a scale not normally observable in the field, have led to new questions about the influence of salinity on the localized ecosystem. The next phase of these experiments; to calibrate growth rate and reproductive viability in atypical salinities is currently underway.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Salinity and Temperature Tolerance Experiments on Selected Florida Bay Mollusks