Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration: Five Case Studies from the United States

Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration: Five Case Studies from the United States


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Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration presents case studies of five of the most noteworthy large-scale restoration projects in the United States: Chesapeake Bay, the Everglades, California Bay Delta, the Platte River Basin, and the Upper Mississippi River System. These projects embody current efforts to address ecosystem restoration in an integrative and dynamic manner, at large spatial scale, involving whole (or even multiple) watersheds, and with complex stakeholder and public roles.
Representing a variety of geographic regions and project structures, the cases shed light on the central controversies that have marked each project, outlining

• the history of the project
• the environmental challenges that generated it
• the difficulties of approaching the project on an ecosystem-wide basis
• techniques for conflict resolution and consensus building
• the ongoing role of science in decision making
• the means of dealing with uncertainties
A concluding chapter offers a guide to assessing the progress of largescale restoration projects.
Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration examines some of the most difficult and important issues involved in restoring and protecting natural systems. It is a landmark publication for scientists, policymakers, and anyone working to protect or restore landscapes or watersheds.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781597260268
Publisher: Island Press
Publication date: 06/01/2008
Series: Science and Practice of Ecological Restoration Series
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Mary Doyle is a professor and codirector of the Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy at the University of Miami.

Cynthia A. Drew is an associate professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law.

Read an Excerpt

Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration

Five Case Studies from the United States

By Mary Doyle, Cynthia A. Drew


Copyright © 2008 Island Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61091-089-7


The Challenges of Restoring the Everglades Ecosystem


One of the most complex, challenged bioregions on Earth, South Florida covers the lower third of the Florida peninsula, encompassing the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, and the Florida Keys. A rare combination of elements—slow and vast water flow, high annual rainfall, low elevation, underlying limestone configuration, and proximity to the ocean—has made the Everglades a diverse, unique ecosystem, rich in 2,000 plant species, 45 mammal species, 50 reptile species, 20 species of amphibians, hundreds of fish species, and 350 species of birds.

To get a glimpse of the Everglades, try to imagine this kaleidoscope of flora and fauna: Caribbean pine, palmetto, yellow tea bush, tiny wild poinsettia, live oak, resurrection, maidenhair, and Boston fern (among 50 species of ferns), strangler fig, red-brown gumbo limbo, ilex, Eugenia, satinwood, cherry laurel, Florida boxwood, more wild orchid varieties than any other place in the United States, brown Florida deer, wildcat, diamondback rattler, otter, Florida panther, alligator, and crocodile. Add flocks of water fowl and birds: least and great blue heron, glossy, Louisiana, and great white heron, snowy egret, the warblers (pine, myrtle, black-throated, blue, and redstart), brown and white pelican, roseate spoonbill, and white ibis.

As pioneering environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas observed, "There are no other Everglades in the world" (Douglas, [1947] 1974, 5). Despite being diked, dammed, and polluted, the Everglades is like no other place on Earth. In recognition of its rare beauty, the United Nations has designated Everglades National Park (ENP or the Park) as a World Heritage Site and a World Biosphere Reserve.

Quantity and Quality of Water

While the Everglades clearly merits preservation for its natural beauty and unique ecosystem, it must also be protected because it is a primary source of the region's water. As a result of the natural system's deterioration, water shortages are not uncommon for South Florida's communities. In the past, the limestone rock beneath the soil absorbed rainwater like a sponge, replenishing the natural aquifer, but human-made changes now divert the flow of freshwater before it soaks into the ground. Miles of paving, brought on by development of the human habitat, also prevent rainwater from penetrating the soil and entering the aquifer. Restoration efforts require more effective diversions and conservation of water to make it available to the ecosystem and for local water supplies.

Quantity is not the only issue: water quality is also of great concern. If less freshwater enters the aquifer, the probability of saltwater intrusion is increased, and agricultural runoff, including varying levels of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, nitrogen, and phosphorous, contribute to the degradation of the water's purity. The fate of South Florida's water supply is directly related to the quantity and quality of water in the natural Everglades. Thus the long-term survival of all species in the region depends upon successful Everglades restoration.

The Larger South Florida Ecosystem

South Florida covers 18,000 square miles and supports a rapidly growing population. The region's landscape contains significant protected natural areas, surrounded by a large rim of urban, suburban, and agricultural development. This rim includes the Florida Keys, urban east coast, agricultural lands south and west of Lake Okeechobee, and lower west coast. Over 98 percent of South Florida's population lives along this 600-mile swath of land that is seldom wider than 20 miles. Inside the rim are several million acres of protected land. One of the paradoxes of South Florida is that large segments of the population live in congested areas, and yet the same region contains the largest remaining wilderness east of the Mississippi River.

Diverse land areas and habitats surround the Everglades. The slightly elevated Big Cypress Swamp, located to the northwest, serves as a natural levee. The Big Cypress region, 2,800 square miles in area, contains the largest variety and concentration of wildlife in South Florida, including endangered species such as the large black bear, Florida panther, and West Indian manatee. In 1974, the federal government established the Big Cypress National Preserve to protect the area.

South of the Everglades, at the point where its freshwater mingles with the saltwater of Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, is located the largest strand of red, black, white, and buttonwood mangroves in America. Stretching for several hundred miles around the tip of the Florida peninsula, this mangrove wilderness, rich in bird life with an abundant fishery, is interspersed with bays and rivers that continue inland for many miles. Fallen mangrove leaves nourish young shrimp and other estuarine life. Although much has been done to protect this area, the Florida Keys and Florida Bay are under considerable environmental stress. Florida Bay has suffered algae blooms, hypersalinity, loss of sea grass, and reduction in pink shrimp and fish stocks. On the Atlantic side of the Keys, coral reefs show signs of degradation, though restoration efforts under way since 1992 appear to have stabilized some of them.

East of the Everglades, the coastal ridge originally contained all of the upland plant communities found in South Florida, including some that are indigenous only to the ridge. Miles of attractive sandy beaches border the ridge, as does Biscayne Bay, around which the cities of Miami and Miami Beach are built—the most intensely developed area of Florida, home to nearly one-third of the state's population.

The headwaters of the Everglades lie in the Kissimmee River valley, a 3,000-square-mile area that includes the Chain of Lakes region south of Orlando. The lakes flow into the Kissimmee River, which runs for some 90 miles south and flows into Lake Okeechobee. In 1962, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE or the Corps) began to drain and convert the Kissimmee River for flood control purposes into a canal 56 miles long (named the C-38 Canal), which includes six water control structures (SFWMD n.d.). Much of the floodplain of the Kissimmee was destroyed by this project and replaced by large-scale dairy and cattle farms. One of the project's unintended, deleterious consequences was the introduction of phosphorous-laden runoff from these farms into Lake Okeechobee.

Located directly north of the Everglades and surrounded by agricultural lands, Lake Okeechobee is the only significant water storage area in the South Florida ecosystem, and the Kissimmee River provides the largest influx of water to the lake. Other tributaries include Nubbin Slough and Taylor Creek; Fisheating Creek is the only major unchanneled source of water flowing into the lake.

While Lake Okeechobee stores a vast amount of freshwater, the greatest source of South Florida's water supply is rainfall. The region receives an average of 40 to 60 inches of rain per year, about 75 percent between May and October (Lake n.d.). Historically, the weather pattern is marked by periods of flooding, caused by hurricanes and heavy rains, and periods of drought so severe that lightning often ignites vast fires in the dried-up muck of the Everglades.

Damage Done to the Natural System

The Everglades is particularly vulnerable to damage from a variety of human activities, including population growth, drainage, and agricultural practices.

Population Growth

For the last five decades, the most powerful force shaping the destiny of South Florida has been population growth. The population has grown from 3,283,712 in 1980 to an estimated 5,538,594 people in 2006 in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Broward counties (USCB 2007). This is an increase of 59 percent or 2,254,882 people. By 2020, the population is projected to increase by 50 percent and by 2050, 100 percent. One observer has noted that South Florida's population is growing faster than Haiti's and India's (Grunwald 2002). South Florida—with a substantial economy, diverse communities, and a vibrant cultural life—includes sixteen counties, 122 cities, two Indian tribal nations, five regional planning agencies, and scores of state and national parks and preserves. The only government agency that exclusively serves the region is the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD or District), one of five such districts created by the Florida legislature in 1972. Supported in part by an ad valorem tax, the SFWMD had an annual budget of $1.1 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2006.

South Florida's rapid growth has significantly damaged the natural environment. Prompted by long-standing, urgent requests from Florida leaders, in 1947 the USACE began construction of a massive drainage and flood control project, called the Central and South Florida Project (C&SF Project) to allow increased development of South Florida. Operation of the C&SF Project has caused over half the original South Florida wetlands to be lost to urban and agricultural uses in the past fifty years. As a result, the hydrology of the Everglades has been seriously degraded. Today, the Everglades and other areas of South Florida are crisscrossed with 1,800 miles of canals and levees, 200 large and 2,000 small water control structures, and 25 pumping stations. Five large canals drain water into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean to control flooding; an average of 1.7 billion gallons of freshwater are pumped into the gulf and the ocean every day. The result is that the Everglades receives only half its original water flow (CERP 2000). Development has caused South Florida to become one of America's greatest ecological problem zones. From the headwaters of Lake Okeechobee in the Kissimmee River valley to the north, to the coral reefs lying off the Florida Keys, there are hundreds of instances of environmental disturbances and deterioration. The most serious include the following:

• Excessive amounts of phosphorous in Lake Okeechobee and in water flowing into the Everglades (EPA 2003)

• Significantly decreased wading bird populations (Gawlik and Sklar 2000)

• Sixty-eight threatened and endangered species, identified under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (McIntosh 2002)

• Invasive exotic plants that infest 1.5 million acres of land in South Florida (FDEP 2006)

• A decline of living corals in the reefs off the Florida Keys despite restoration efforts (Hu et al. 2003)

• Lesions on fish in the St. Lucie estuary, where water is flushed from Lake Okeechobee (DOI 1999)

Draining the Everglades

In fewer than one hundred years, South Florida has witnessed profound environmental change. Half of the historic Everglades has been lost, and the remaining natural areas are highly fragmented. Fragmentation started over a century ago, when government policies began to be directed toward draining large parts of the Everglades wetlands. By the 1920s, hundreds of miles of drainage canals had been built, and in 1930, a two-lane road, the Tamiami Trail, was completed across the Everglades. By the early 1960s, the C&SF Project had created 1,800 miles of levees and canals, and Alligator Alley, an interstate highway, traversed the South Florida peninsula.

In 1881, Hamilton Disston, an engineer, bought 4 million acres from the state of Florida and agreed to drain much of the land for development. He arranged for a canal to be excavated from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River to the west in 1882, allowing steamboats to penetrate South Florida. Within a few years, a commercial fishing industry started, tourism began to grow, and a real estate boom ensued.

Rapid growth of agriculture in the central region of South Florida was matched by growing urbanization on the East Coast. Henry Flagler, a partner of John D. Rockefeller, extended his Florida East Coast Railroad to Miami in 1896 and to Key West in 1912.

In the wake of devastating hurricanes and extensive flooding suffered by South Floridians in 1926 and 1928, state officials urgently requested federal flood control assistance. The federal government agreed to share with the state the cost of a project to control flooding around Lake Okeechobee: a large levee south of the lake and an expanded system of floodgates and canals were constructed. In spite of these efforts, severe flooding continued, and state officials repeatedly asked for increased federal flood protection. In 1947, Congress authorized the C&SF Project, which called for local flood control districts. Twenty-five years later, in 1972, the SFWMD was authorized as the nonfederal sponsor of the C&SF project and assumed responsibility for operating and maintaining the enormous flood control and water supply project constructed by the Corps.

To fulfill the flood-control purpose of the 1947 C&SF Project, the Corps built levees and canals to drain large quantities of freshwater away from farms and cities. Completion of the project in 1962 marked the demise of the Everglades natural system, with its vast unspoiled beauty, labeled by Stoneman Douglas as the "river of grass" (Douglas 1947). The C&SF Project radically altered natural flow through the Everglades, subjecting water to regulation schedules for movement and distribution controlled by the Corps (Dewitt 1994, 133–134). The project drastically reduced the quantity of water entering ENP through its major natural canals, Shark River and Taylor Sloughs. The C&SF Project disrupted the natural sheet flow of water from a flooding Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades, which caused massive damage to the natural system south of the lake, including loss of much natural habitat.

A perimeter levee was designed and built by the Corps to protect coastal areas from flooding. State-owned lands west of this levee were designated as water conservation areas (WCAs), undeveloped areas maintained by the SFWMD for the purposes of retaining floodwaters and replenishing the Biscayne aquifer that underlies South Florida. The District leased one of the WCAs to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI or Interior) to create the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. This project also created the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) to the south of Lake Okeechobee.

Farming in the Everglades Agricultural Area

In the fifteen years after the C&SF Project went into operation in 1947, sugar production in the United States increased sixfold. This was the result of Congress's embargo on sugar from Cuba and its imposition of quotas to protect the domestic sugar industry. Today, three-quarters of the EAA's more than 1,100 square miles is devoted to producing sugarcane; the Florida crop accounts for slightly more than half of annual U.S. sugarcane production. The advent of sugar production in the EAA brought a chronic problem of phosphorous pollution from farm runoff, carried by what was left of water flow to the Everglades.

The Evolution of an Environmental Approach to the Everglades

The evolution of environmental action to preserve and protect what remained of the natural Everglades began with important steps taken by the federal government and the state of Florida. Perhaps the most important of these steps was creation of the 1.3-million-acre ENP in 1947. Almost twenty-five years later, in 1970, Congress recognized the detrimental effects of massive drainage operations in South Florida and mandated a guaranteed minimum flow of water into the Park. In 1989, Congress added 107,600 acres to the ENP in the Everglades Expansion and Protection Act (Alvarez et al. 2002). The act also directed the Corps to construct modifications to its drainage project to improve water flows into the park and to take steps to restore natural hydrological conditions there.

The state's efforts to correct damage to the Everglades began in earnest in 1983, when the legislature passed the Save Our Everglades Act under the leadership of Governor Bob Graham. The Save Our Everglades (SOE) program introduced two approaches that proved to be fundamental to future efforts to save the Everglades. First, SOE was comprehensive; the program recognized that the entire South Florida ecosystem, not just parts of it, needed to be restored. It called for restoration of the Everglades and Florida Bay and protection of Lake Okeechobee, the WCAs, Big Cypress Swamp, and the habitats of the Florida panther and other endangered species. Second, the program was collaborative. It required that state agencies, the SFWMD, federal agencies, the Florida congressional delegation, and the Florida legislature cooperate to tackle comprehensive restoration. Governor Graham's Republican successor, Bob Martinez, continued SOE, initiating bipartisan support for Everglades restoration, which became a long-standing tradition in Florida.


Excerpted from Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration by Mary Doyle, Cynthia A. Drew. Copyright © 2008 Island Press. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Watershed-Wide, Science-Based  Approach to Ecosystem Restoration \ Mary Doyle
PART I.  The Everglades
Chapter 1. The Challenges of Restoring the Everglades Ecosystem
Chapter  2. Everglades Ecology: The Impacts of Altered Hydrology
Chapter  3. Rivers of Plans for the River of Grass: The Political Economy of Everglades Restoration
PART II.  The Platte River 
Chapter  4. Negotiating for Endangered and Threatened Species Habitat in the Platte River Basin
Chapter  5. Platte River Basin Ecology: A Three-Dimensional Approach to Adaptive Management
Chapter  6. Navigating the Shoals: Costs and Benefits of Platte River Ecosystem Management
PART III.  The California Bay-Delta
Chapter  7. California's Delta: The Challenges of Collaboration
Chapter  8. The Ecology of Bay-Delta Restoration: An Impossible Dream?
Chapter  9. Water Fights: The Economics of Allocating Scarce Water and Bay-Delta Restoration
PART IV.  The Chesapeake Bay 
Chapter  10. The Culture of Collaboration in the Chesapeake Bay Program
Chapter  11. An Ecological Perspective on Management of the Chesapeake Bay
Chapter  12. Murky Waters and Murky Policies: Costs and Benefits of Restoring Chesapeake Bay
PART V.  The Upper Mississippi River 
Chapter  13. The Upper Mississippi River and the Army Corps of Engineers' New Role: Will Congress Fund Ecosystem Restoration?
Chapter  14. Upper Mississippi Restoration Ecology: Putting Theory into Practice
Chapter 15. Comparing Apples and Oranges? Costs and Benefits of Upper Mississippi River System Restoration
Conclusion: Assessing Ecosystem Restoration Projects \ Mary Doyle

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