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Report: Everglades restoration is lagging

Major landscape types in the Everglades before human action. USGS map.

Major landscape types in the Everglades before human action. USGS map.

More money, less red tape would help, experts say

Staff Report

FRISCO — Critical restoration work in the Florida Everglades is lagging well behind where it should be, with government red tape chronic funding shortages blocking the implementation of plans that are already on the books.

A new report says that local, state and federal entities working on long-term restoration of the Everglades ecosystem timely green lights for projects, enough money and some creative policy making to make it all happen. The impacts of climate change — especially sea-level rise — provide a stimulus to accelerate restoration efforts, the report adds.

The report is a congressionally mandated update to the 2011  Central Everglades Planning Project, which outlines ways to renew needed flows in the central Everglades.

Sea-level rise has already increased saltwater intrusion into Everglades freshwater habitats and urban water supplies, and potential future changes in temperature and precipitation may affect the timing, volume, and quality of freshwater and the distribution of species, as well as increase agricultural water demands.

Although they pose a challenge to restoration efforts, climate change and sea-level rise are reasons to accelerate restoration to enhance the ecosystem’s ability to adapt to future changes. For example, improvements in water depths could promote the accumulation of peat in Everglades wetlands, reducing coastal wetland loss caused by sea-level rise.

The report recommends that climate change be incorporated into adaptive management planning at both the project scale and in systemwide goals, and that planners build flexibility into the design so new knowledge and improved climate change projections can be incorporated as they become available and future restoration efforts can be adjusted appropriately.

The report also states that planners should consider the implications of restoration activities on nonnative species. Invasive plants and animals displace native species and disrupt ecosystem structure and function, and some projects may affect the extent and abundance of nonnative species. The committee found that although there has been good coordination of invasive species management at the project level, strategic coordination over management and research priorities is lacking.

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of the Interior, and South Florida Water Management District. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, independent nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter granted to NAS in 1863. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. For more information, visit http://national-academies.org. A committee roster follow

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