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Project Work Plan

U.S. Geological Survey Greater Everglades Science Initiative (Place-Based Studies)

Fiscal Year 2004 Project Work Plan

A. GENERAL INFORMATION:

Project Title: Ecological Risk Assessment of Toxic Substances in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem: Wildlife Effects and Exposure Assessment
Project Start Date: October 1, 2000 Project End Date: September 30, 2008
Project Funding: USGS Place-Based Studies Initiative

Principal Investigator: Timothy S. Gross
Email address: Tim_s_gross@usgs.gov
Phone: 352-378-8181 (ext 323) Fax: 352-378-4956
Mail address: USGS, Florida Caribbean Science Center, 7920 NW 71st St., Gainesville, FL 32653

Project Summary:

This project will be carried out in several locations throughout those areas critical to the South Florida Restoration Initiative. These areas include: 1) Water Conservation Areas 1, 2, and 3 of the Central Everglades, 2) Everglades National Park, 3) Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, 4) Big Cypress National Preserve, 5) multiple Miami Metropolitan area canals and drainages, and 6) restoration related STA's (STA's 1-6) adjacent to the Everglades. Specific site selections will be based upon consideration of USACE restoration plans and upon discussions with other place-based and CESI approved projects.

The overall objectives are characterize the exposure of wildlife to contaminants within the aquatic ecosystems of South Florida, through a multi-stage process: a) screening of biota to identify hazards/contaminants posing risk, and b) evaluation of the potential effects of those contaminants on appropriate animal/wildlife receptors. This project will focus upon each of these stages/needs, with an emphasis on understanding the effects of contaminants on alligators, fishes, birds, amphibians and macroinvertebrates.

Historically, little consideration has been given to environmental chemical stressors/contaminants within the ecosystem restoration efforts for the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. The restoration is primarily guided by determining and restoring the historical relationships between ecosystem function and hydrology. The restoration plan was formulated to restore the natural hydrology and therefore, the resultant landscape patterns, bio-diversity and wildlife abundance. However, additional efforts need to consider the role that chemical contaminants such as pesticides and other inorganic/organic contaminants play in the structure and function of the resultant South Florida ecosystems. Indeed, the current level of agriculture and expanding urbanization and development necessitate that more emphasis be placed on chemical contaminants within this sensitive ecosystem and the current restoration efforts.

The primary goal of the proposed project, therefore, is to develop an improved understanding of the exposure/fate (i.e. degradation, metabolism, dissipation, accumulation and transport) and potential ecological effects produced as a result of chemical stressors and their interactions in South Florida freshwater and wetland ecosystems. These efforts should partner with and guide ecosystem management decisions for assessing ecosystem integrity/sustainability and for maintaining and restoring the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. The research generated from these efforts will assist in the C&SF Restudy by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. Indeed, these efforts are a critical component to this "Restudy" since ecological risk-assessment was not included in the development of the original restoration priorities and polices. Furthermore, the USEPA's Office of Research and Development established South Florida as one of the three geographic "high priority" areas in the U.S. and stated that research to improve ecosystems is a "high priority" core objective for investment over the next ten years. Most importantly, the contaminant issues facing South Florida restoration: contaminated sediments, endocrine disruptors, mercury, organic pesticides and toxics, were also those identified by EPA as "high priority" problems and concerns.

Project Objectives and Strategy:

The overall objectives are to evaluate the risk posed by contaminants to biota within the aquatic ecosystems of South Florida, through a multi-stage process: a) screening of biota to identify hazards/contaminants posing risk and b) evaluation of the potential effects of those contaminants on appropriate animal/wildlife receptors.

This project will focus upon each of these stages/needs, with an emphasis on understanding the effects of contaminants on alligators, fishes, birds, amphibians and macroinvertebrates

The specific objectives of this proposal are to:

  1. Assess current exposure and potential adverse effects for appropriate receptors/species within the South Florida ecosystems with some emphasis on DOI trust species. These efforts will determine whether natural populations are significantly exposed to a variety of chemical stressors/contaminants, such as mercury, chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides, historic and/or current use agricultural chemicals, and/or mixtures, as well as document lethal and non-lethal adverse effects in multiple health, physiologic and/or endocrine endpoints. To be conducted during FY 2000 and 2005.
  2. Assess exposure and potential adverse effects for appropriate species within South Florida as a function of restoration implementation. To be conducted during FY 2006-2008.

Potential Impacts and Major Products:

We expect results from these studies to provide evidence of significant wildlife exposures to chemical stressors/contaminants in South Florida and adverse effects as a result of these exposures. Effects characterization will focus on non-lethal effects such as decreased health status, altered reproductive success, and endocrine disruption. In addition, it is likely that we will be able to demonstrate population and community level effects, primarily decreases, for sensitive species in sites with significant hazard of exposure. From the complementary findings of field studies and experimental exposures, we expect to be able to demonstrate convincing evidence as to the causal role of specific chemicals and/or mixtures. Finally, we expect that studies comparing responses of these selected species will provide major insights into the basis of interspecies differences in sensitivity to contaminants.

These results will greatly improve assessment of risk for selected wildlife species and for the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. Risk assessment requires hazard identification, documentation of adverse effects, demonstration of exposure, and knowledge of dose-response relationships. Currently available information concerning potential contaminant effects for wildlife within South Florida consists primarily of identification of exposures. However, evidence of adverse effects, cause and effect relationships, and dose-response relationships have not been documented for specific contaminants or mixtures. Results from the proposed study should refine risk assessment and management. Overall, the proposed project will assess both current contaminant exposures as well as predict and monitor future restoration-driven exposures, to enable assessment, detection and prevention of adverse effects on wildlife in South Florida. Indeed, these efforts and results will be a critical component for the development and implementation of viable restoration strategies for the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.

Collaborators: USGS-BRD, Ecotoxicology Program, Gainesville FF (personnel: D.S. Ruessler, C. Wieser, J. Wiebe, and Beverly Arnold); USGS-WRD, Water Quality/Analytical Laboratory, Ocala, FL; University of Florida, Gainesville, FL (personnel: M. Sepulveda, N. Kernaghan); Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Clients: USFWS, USNPS, USEPA

B. WORK PLAN

Title of Task 1: Assess current exposure and potential adverse effects for appropriate receptors/species within the South Florida ecosystems with some emphasis on DOI trust species.

Task Funding: USGS Place-Based Studies Initiative
Task Leaders: Timothy S. Gross
Phone: 352-378-8181 ext 323
FAX: 352-378-4956

Task Status (proposed or active): active
Task priority: High
Task Personnel: USGS-BRD, Ecotoxicology Program, Gainesville FF (personnel: D.S. Ruessler, C. Wieser, J. Wiebe, and Beverly Arnold); USGS-WRD, Water Quality/Analytical Laboratory, Ocala, FL; University of Florida, Gainesville, FL (personnel: M. Sepulveda, N. Kernaghan); Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Task Summary and Objectives:

These efforts will determine whether natural populations are significantly exposed to a variety of chemical stressors/contaminants, such as mercury, chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides, historic and/or current use agricultural chemicals, and/or mixtures, as well as document lethal and non-lethal adverse effects in multiple health, physiologic and/or endocrine endpoints. A complete ecological risk assessment requires hazard identification, documentation of adverse effects, demonstration of exposure, and knowledge of dose-response relationships. Currently available information concerning potential contaminant effects for wildlife within South Florida consists primarily of the identification of exposure to potential hazards, especially mercury, with little or no consideration of adverse effects Indeed the South Florida ecosystem is contaminated with a wide array of chemical stressors/contaminants, including chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides, heavy metals, water soluble pesticides, and nutrients, however, evidence of adverse effects, cause and effect relationships, or dose-response relationships have not yet been documented for specific contaminants or mixtures. It is critical that potential exposures and subsequent adverse effects be assessed for wildlife in South Florida to enable a complete ecological risk assessment as well as an assessment and evaluation of proposed restoration strategies.

The initial exposure assessment will begin with an evaluation and expansion of data and the sample base generated by the preliminary phase of this project (2000-2002). These efforts have included the sampling of alligators, fish, amphibians and freshwater mussels across multiple sites in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem as an initiation of efforts to characterize exposure and effects. There are currently greater than 3000 biota samples banked for these analyses. Additional sampling regimes, will also be needed, at selected critical areas to provide an evaluation of soil, water and sediments and/or additional biota. These evaluations will include pH, percent water, grain size, cation exchange capacity, and total volatile solids as well as quantitation of organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), organophosphate pesticides (OPs), nitrogen based herbicides, phenoxy-acid herbicides, and heavy metals. Soil, sediment and water samples will be collected and analyzed at multiple seasons, 4-6 times annually, to assess temporal patterns in use, especially for the non-persistent, water-soluble, pesticides. Tissue samples will also be collected from the ecological receptors , outlined above, at many of these selected sites. Tissues will also be analyzed for lipid content, as well as quantitation of organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), organophosphate pesticides (OPs), nitrogen based herbicides, phenoxy-acid herbicides, and heavy metals. These efforts will enable the first complete exposure assessment at multiple trophic levels for the Greater Everglades ecosystem, and serve as a critical basis for all future research efforts and risk assessments.

In addition to the emphasis on the persistent contaminants listed above, we also propose the characterization of non-target, current use, non or less persistent contaminants as well. These contaminants have been identified as the emerging contaminants of concern for ecosystems throughout the US by USEPA. Analyses will include chemicals/contaminants of concern from urban run-off or waste water: pharmaceuticals, health care components, xenobiotic endocrine factors and current use pesticides, as well as nutrients and novel compounds. These contaminants have not been characterized for the Greater Everglades Ecosystem previously, nor have they been considered under any of the restoration strategies. The partnership with the WRD-Water Quality Laboratory in Ocala will be critical to these efforts and to the development of appropriate techniques to evaluate this emerging contaminant issue.

To assess whether chemical stressors/contaminants in South Florida harm wildlife (effects assessment) it is important to study animals that are potentially exposed and appear sensitive to contaminants. Utilization of several receptors/species at multiple trophic levels will enable the detection of both potential exposures and adverse effects within the South Florida ecosystems. The proposed study will utilize American alligators, largemouth bass, brown-bullhead catfish, white ibises, great egrets, Florida apple snails and two endemic species of freshwater mussels as model ecological receptors for evaluation of the South Florida ecosystems. Receptors will be monitored for acute and chronic effects, such as general health status, growth, development, reproduction, and endocrine function. These initial assessments will rely primarily upon biomarkers and bioindicators of effects, such as sex steroids, vitellogenin, stress hormones, thyroid hormones, blood chemistry, organ somatic indices, body condition indices, plasma and tissue lysozyme, and tissue glycogen.

These efforts will determine whether natural wildlife populations in South Florida are significantly exposed to a variety of chemical stressors/contaminants, such as mercury, chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides, historic and/or current use agricultural chemicals, and/or mixtures, as well as document lethal and non-lethal effects in multiple health, physiologic and/or endocrine endpoints. The proposed study will also aid in future ecological risk assessments for the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.

Work to be undertaken during the proposal year and a description of the methods and procedures:

All sample shave been collected for the studies detailed above. Efforts during 2004-2005 will include the continuation of ongoing analyses to complete all samples.

Planned Outreach:

The proposed research efforts involve a mutli-disciplinary, collaborative, group of researchers from multiple agencies and disciplines. These researchers will meet quarterly to report and compare results and progress. Annual reports, outlining all efforts, will be produced annually for distribution as a USGS document. Updates will be presented twice annually to the Science-Coordination Team for restoration of the South Florida ecosystem. Additional updates and reports will involve the South Florida Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission and US-EPA. Additional updates and summaries will be posted on the South Florida Science-Coordination Team web-page and presented at appropriate public forums.

Title of Task 2: Determine whether exposure of appropriate receptors/species to current and/or predicted chemical stressors/contaminants in experimental, microcosm and mesocosm, studies induces responses similar to those observed under field exposure conditions and therefore, indicates significant risk.
Task Funding: USGS Place-Based Studies Initiative
Phone: 352-378-8181 ext 323
FAX: 352-378-4956
Task Status (proposed or active): proposed

Task priority: high
Task Personnel: USGS-BRD, Ecotoxicology Program, Gainesville FF (personnel: D.S. Ruessler, C. Wieser, J. Wiebe, and Beverly Arnold); USGS-WRD, Water Quality/Analytical Laboratory, Ocala, FL; University of Florida, Gainesville, FL (personnel: M. Sepulveda, N. Kernaghan); Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Task Summary and Objectives:

Additional reproductive effects will also be monitored, such as egg numbers, fecundity, fertility, sperm viability, egg hatchability, and offspring survival. This combination of biomarkers/bioindicators and markers of reproductive success should enable a thorough assessment of potential adverse effects in wildlife within the South Florida ecosystems. These efforts will involve both traditional field study and manipulative field study approaches to assess potential effects. Traditional field studies utilize techniques to search for relationships between exposures and acute or chronic effects. Manipulative field studies utilize similar techniques to monitor effects following either manipulations of treatment doses under field conditions, such as those that occur during initial stages of restoration. Additional studies involving laboratory, dose-response, exposures will be conducted as necessary. Details to be developed for future work-plans and budget years.

Work to be undertaken during the proposal year and a description of the methods and procedures:

Details to be developed for future work-plans and budget years.

C. BRIEF DESCRIPTION ON HOW PROJECT TASKS SUPPORT THE DOI AND USGS EVERGLADES RESTORATION SCIENCE PLANS

We expect results from these studies to provide evidence of significant wildlife exposures to chemical stressors/contaminants in South Florida and adverse effects as a result of these exposures. Effects characterization will focus on non-lethal effects such as decreased health status, altered reproductive success, and endocrine disruption. In addition, it is likely that we will be able to demonstrate population and community level effects, primarily decreases, for sensitive species in sites with significant hazard of exposure. From the complementary findings of field studies and experimental exposures, we expect to be able to demonstrate convincing evidence as to the causal role of specific chemicals and/or mixtures. Finally, we expect that studies comparing responses of these selected species will provide major insights into the basis of interspecies differences in sensitivity to contaminants.

These results will greatly improve assessment of risk for selected wildlife species and for the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. Risk assessment requires hazard identification, documentation of adverse effects, demonstration of exposure, and knowledge of dose-response relationships. Currently available information concerning potential contaminant effects for wildlife within South Florida consists primarily of identification of exposures. However, evidence of adverse effects, cause and effect relationships, and dose-response relationships have not been documented for specific contaminants or mixtures. Results from the proposed study should refine risk assessment and management. Overall, the proposed project will assess both current contaminant exposures as well as predict and monitor future restoration-driven exposures, to enable assessment, detection and prevention of adverse effects on wildlife in South Florida. Indeed, these efforts and results will be a critical component for the development and implementation of viable restoration strategies for the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.



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