Ecosystem restoration in south Florida is a state and national priority centered on the Everglades wetlands. However, urban development pressures affect the restoration potential and remaining habitat functions of the natural undeveloped areas. Land use (LU) planning often focuses at the local level, but a better understanding of the cumulative effects of small projects at the landscape level is needed to support ecosystem restoration and preservation. The South Florida Ecosystem Portfolio Model (SFL EPM) is a regional LU planning tool developed to help stakeholders visualize LU scenario evaluation and improve communication about regional effects of LU decisions. One component of the SFL EPM is ecological value (EV), which is evaluated through modeled ecological criteria related to ecosystem services using metrics for (1) biodiversity potential, (2) threatened and endangered species, (3) rare and unique habitats, (4) landscape pattern and fragmentation, (5) water quality buffer potential, and (6) ecological restoration potential. In this article, we demonstrate the calculation of EV using two case studies: (1) assessing altered EV in the Biscayne Gateway area by comparing 2004 LU to potential LU in 2025 and 2050, and (2) the cumulative impact of adding limestone mines south of Miami. Our analyses spatially convey changing regional EV resulting from conversion of local natural and agricultural areas to urban, industrial, or extractive use. Different simulated local LU scenarios may result in different alterations in calculated regional EV. These case studies demonstrate methods that may facilitate evaluation of potential future LU patterns and incorporate EV into decision making.
Additional publication details
Estimating the Cumulative Ecological Effect of Local Scale Landscape Changes in South Florida