Fact Sheet 2010–3047
Restoring the greater Everglades ecosystem of south Florida is arguably the largest ecosystem restoration effort to date. A critical goal is to return more natural patterns of flow through south Florida wetlands and into the estuaries, but development of realistic targets requires acknowledgement that ecosystems are constantly evolving and changing in response to a variety of natural and human-driven stressors.
Examination of ecosystems over long periods of time requires analysis of sedimentary records, such as those deposited in the wetlands and estuaries of south Florida. As sediment accumulates, it preserves information about the animals and plants that lived in the environment and the physical, chemical, and climatic conditions present. One of the methods used to interpret this information is paleoecology—the study of the ecology of previously living organisms.
Paleoecologic investigations of south Florida estuaries provide quantitative data on historical variability of salinity and trends that may be applied to statistical models to estimate historical freshwater flow. These data provide a unique context to estimate future ecosystem response to changes related to restoration activities and predicted changes in sea level and temperature, thus increasing the likelihood of successful and sustainable ecosystem restoration.
First posted July 1, 2010
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Wingard, G.L., Hudley, J.W., and Marshall, F.E., 2010, Estuaries of the greater Everglades ecosystem—laboratories of long-term change: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2010–3047, 4 p.