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projects > ecosystem history: florida bay and the southwest coast

Ecosystem History: Florida Bay and the Southwest Coast

photo of birds in a wetland area
Project Investigator: G. Lynn Wingard

Project Start Date: 1995 End Date: 2001


Summary

The purpose of this project is to provide paleoecological interpretations for Florida Bay and the Gulf Coast of the Everglades.

Please be sure to visit the South Florida Ecosystem History Project Website.

Plant and animal communities in the South Florida ecosystem have undergone striking changes over the past few decades. In particular, Florida Bay has been plagued by seagrass die-offs, algal blooms, and declining shellfish and sponge populations. These alterations in the ecosystem have traditionally been attributed to human activities and development in the region. Currently, under the South Florida Initiative of the Ecosystem Program, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey are studying the paleoecologic changes taking place in Florida Bay in hopes of understanding the physical environment and restoring the region to a a more pristine, natural state.

Restoration efforts include changes in agricultural and land development practices, which began in the early 1900s, and the restructuring of the present levee and canal system established to control the flow of water throughout South Florida. Before recommending the use of such efforts, however, scientists must first determine which changes are part of the natural variation in Florida Bay and which resulted from human activities. To answer this question, scientists study both modern samples and deeper piston cores which reveal paleoecologic changes over the past 150-200 years. These two types of cores compliment each other by providing information about the current state of the Bay, changes that have occurred over time, and patterns of change.

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Script last updated: 22 August 2014 @ 06:07 PM by THF. Record creator: BJM. Record last updated by: LJT.