The REstoration COordination and VERification (RECOVER) Monitoring and Assessment Plan (MAP), a project of CERP (Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program) released their 2019 Everglades System Status Report. The report contains over 200 pages of findings that will be used to inform members of the scientific community in south Florida on the status of Everglades Restoration projects, and used as input for a 2020 report to Congress on status of goals and programs on restoration. While there is a lot to digest in this report, there are several key takeaways in regard to the health of the overall ecosystem, as well as the health of the Florida Bay.
1. Florida Bay still suffers from lack of freshwater flowing from Taylor Slough, Shark River Slough, and numerous creeks and rivers. Overall, the salinity of the Florida Bay has improved over the last five years, however, conditions in the Florida Bay and coastal Everglades remain poor. This is particularly disheartening, given that the overall health rating of the Everglades is fair. Future CERP (particularly C-111) and CEPP (Central Everglades Planning Projects) should continue to improve the amount and timing of freshwater flows. Until these projects are implemented, this high salinity will continue to dominate the Florida Bay ecosystem.
2. Climate change is an ever-growing concern for restoration. Sea level rise is occurring at a rate faster than anticipated when CERP was developed in 2000. Within the Everglades, it is projected to impact water supply, saltwater intrusion, and increase flood risks. Compacted with lack of freshwater flow, the Florida Bay and southern coastal ecosystems will face greater challenges as the climate changes.
3. The report card indicates the need for continued support for Everglades restoration. Need we say more? The Florida Everglades is struggling to survive. There are nearly 8 million people who rely on the ecosystem for water alone. That is four times the number of people the existing management system was designed to serve. The ecosystem is stressed out and struggling to support South Florida’s tourism and recreation industries, as well as agricultural and other development activities. It is also stressed out from major natural events over the past several years, such as the 2015 drought and Hurricane Irma. We see this stress in the Florida Bay when it takes the form of seagrass die-off, algal blooms, mangrove mortality, and changes in composition and numbers of indicator species.
CERP aims to restore the characteristics of a hydrologically integrated Everglades that more closely resembles the historic ecosystem prior to human intervention. With climate change, new challenges to the health of the ecosystem are growing while old challenges still remain. The ecosystem is degraded and the anticipated ecological benefits of restoration are yet to be realized. That is why we must continue to push for restoration. Will you join us?
See the full report here: https://evergladesecohealth.org/publications/2019-system-status-report/