Understanding the natural spatial and temporal variability that exists within an ecosystem is a critical component of efforts to restore systems to their natural state. Analysis of benthic foraminifers and molluscs from modern monitoring sites within Florida Bay allows us to determine what environmental parameters control spatial and temporal variability of their assemblages. Faunal assemblages associated with specific environmental parameters, including salinity and substrate, serve as proxies for an interpretation of paleoecologic data. The faunal record preserved in two shallow (< 2 m) cores in central Florida Bay (Russell Bank and Bob Allen Bank) provides a record of historical trends in environmental parameters for those sites. Analysis of these two cores has revealed two distinct patterns of salinity change at these sites: 1) a long-term trend of slightly increasing average salinity; and 2) a relatively rapid change to salinity fluctuations of greater frequency and amplitude, beginning around the turn of the century and becoming most pronounced after 1940. The degree of variability in substrate types at each locality limits interpretations of substrate trends to specific sites. A common sequence of change is present in the Russell Bank and Bob Allen Bank cores: from mixed grass and bare-sediment indicators at the bottom of the cores, to bare-sediment dwellers in the center, to a dominance of vegetative-cover indicators at the top of the cores. Changes in interpreted salinity patterns around the turn of the century are consistent with the timing of the construction of the Flagler Railroad from 1905 to 1912, and the Tamiami Trail and the canal and levee systems between 1915 and 1928. Beginning around 1940, the changes in the frequency and amplitude of salinity fluctuations may be related to changes in water management practices, meteorologic events (frequent hurricanes coupled with severe droughts in 1943 and 1944), or a combination of factors. The correspondence of these changes in Florida Bay with changes in the terrestrial Everglades suggests factors affecting the entire ecosystem are responsible for the salinity and substrate patterns seen in Florida Bay.
Additional publication details
Historical trends in salinity and substrate in central Florida Bay: A paleoecological reconstruction using modern analogue data