Environmental systems and management activities on the Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, Florida: results of a modeling workshop

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In the early 1960's, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began purchasing 140,000 acres on Merritt Island, Florida, in order to develop a center for space exploration. Most of this land was acquired to provide a safety and security buffer around NASA facilities. NASA, as the managing agency for the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), is responsible for preventing or controlling environmental pollution from the Federal facilities and activities at the Space Center and is committed to use all practicable means to protect and enhance the quality of the surrounding environment. The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 when management authority for undeveloped lands at KSC was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In addition to manage for 11 Federally-listed threatened and endangered species and other resident and migratory fish and wildlife populations, the Refuge has comanagement responsibility for 19,000 acres of mosquito control impoundments and 2,500 acres of citrus groves. The Canaveral National Seashore was developed in 1975 when management of a portion of the coastal lands was transferred from NASA to the National Park Service. This multiagency jurisdiction on Merritt Island has resulted in a complex management environment.

The modeling workshop described in this report was conducted May 21-25, 1984, at the Kennedy Space Center to: (1) enhance communication among the agencies with management responsibilities on Merritt Island; (2) integrate available information concerning the development, management, and ecology of Merritt Island; and (3) identify key research and monitoring needs associated with the management and use of the island's resources. The workshop was structured around the formulation of a model that would simulate primary management and use activities on Merritt Island and their effects on upland, impoundment, and estuarine vegetation and associated wildlife.

The simulation model is composed of four connected submodels. The Uplands submodel calculates changes in acres and structural components of vegetation communities resulting from succession, fire, facilities development, and shuttle launch depositions, as well as the quantity and quality of surface runoff and aquifer input to an impoundment and an estuary. The Impoundment submodel next determines water quality and quantity and changes in vegetation resulting from water level manipulation and prescribed burning. The Estuary submodel than determines water quality parameters and acres of seagrass beds. Finally, the Wildlife submodel calculates habitat suitability indices for key species of interest, based on vegetation conditions in the uplands and impoundments and on several hydrologic parameters. The model represents a hypothetical management unit with 2,500 acres of uplands, a 600-acre impoundment, and a 1,500-acre section of estuary. Two management scenarios were run to analyze model behavior. The scenarios differ in the frequency of shuttle launches and prescribed burning, the extent of facilities development, the amount of land disposed waste material applied, and the nature and timing of impoundment water level control.

Early in a model development project, the process of building the model is usually of greater benefit than the model itself. The model building process stimulates interaction among agencies, assists in integrating existing information, and helps identify research needs. These benefits usually accrue even in the absence of real predictive power in the resulting model. Open communication occurs among the Federal, State, and local agencies involved with activities on Merritt Island and the agencies have a cooperative working relationship. The workshop provided an opportunity for all of these agencies to meet at one time and have focused discussions on the key environmental and multiagency resource management issues. The workshop framework helped to integrate information and assumptions from a number of disciplines and agencies. This integration occurred in the computer simulation model and among workshop participants as submodel linkages were developed and scenario results discussed.

A number of research needs were identified at the workshop during the model building and testing exercises and associated discussions. These needs were based on the informed judgement of researchers and managers familiar with Merritt Island or similar areas, rather than on a comprehensive literature review of sensitivity analysis of the preliminary model developed at the workshop. Some of the needs can be addressed by interpreting the results of completed studies from similar geographic areas as they relate to Merritt Island, while other will require additional research studies on Merritt Island. Major research needs associated with the Upland submodel include behavior of the near-surface aquifer, factors limiting slash pine regeneration, frequency and effects of natural fire on various cover types, cumulative effects of shuttle launches, and fate in upland soils of nitrogen and phosphorous from land applied waste material. Key Impoundment submodel needs include documentation of vegetation changes in response to altered water depth, salinity, and nutrient concentrations and better specification of the functional characteristics of impoundments as chemical filters. Important information gaps identified in the Estuary submodel include a more complete analysis of factors contributing to phytoplankton abundance, evaluation of sources of turbidity other than phytoplankton, and identification and quantification of factors limiting seagrass distribution. Primary research needs associated with the Wildlife submodel include a survey of breeding habitat, production data, and harvest data for mottled ducks; data on the emigration and immigration of juvenile mullet (and other transient fish) in the impoundment; the contribution of various seagrasses to habitat requirements of sea trout; and the effects of dissolved oxygen on survival of juvenile sea trout.

Ideally, the modeling workshop process is iterative in nature. Periods between workshops are used for research, data collection, and model refinement. Each workshop integrates information collected since the last workshop and produces a more credible model that is more useful in evaluating management alternatives. Participants felt that continued application of this process would help provide ongoing integration and communication among agencies and would allow each agency's planning and management activities to be viewed within the context of an overall assessment.

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Title Environmental systems and management activities on the Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, Florida: results of a modeling workshop
Series number WELUT-85/W05
Year Published 1985
Language English
Publisher U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Energy and Land Use Team
Publisher location Fort Collins, CO
Description 130 p.
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