Science to restore the nation's ecosystems

December 06, 2004

Hydrologists, biologists, geologists and geographers from the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) will discuss their science at the First National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER) Dec. 6-10 at the Wyndham Palace in Orlando, Fla. The conference will assemble resource managers, policymakers, and scientists to exchange information for sustainable landscape-scale ecosystem restoration through science, planning, and policy. Among the presentations:

Tues. Dec. 7

  • Mercury Contamination of the Florida Everglades: A Convergence of External Forces and Natural Ecosystem Sensitivity, D. Krabbenhoft, USGS, Middleton, WI, 10:45-11am, Location: Cloister
    Mercury contamination of aquatic ecosystems is a global issue that is at a cross roads of substantial science-policy debate. The dominant source of mercury to most aquatic ecosystems is atmospheric deposition, and as a result, there are presently proposed regulations in the US and elsewhere to reduce mercury emissions. In the Everglades, deposition from the atmosphere is only one of the factors that control the distribution of toxic methylmercury. Scientists have focused on determining the relative importance of these factors, and whether the Everglades restoration could affect mercury toxicity in the future.

  • Sulfur Contamination in the Florida Everglades: Where Does It Come From, What Is Its Extent, What Are Its Impacts, and What Can We Do About It?, W. Orem, USGS, Reston, VA, 11:00-11:15am, Location: Cloister.
    Sulfur contamination represents a significant water quality issue for Everglades' restoration. Near canal water discharge, concentrations greatly exceed those of pristine areas. The major known impact of sulfur contamination in the Everglades is its dual link to methylmercury production, which peaks at moderate sulfur concentrations. So, simply lowering sulfur could at some locations aggravate the problem. Sulfur contamination may have other unknown impacts on the Everglades.

  • Atmospheric Deposition of African Dust in the Everglades and Florida Bay Ecosystem, E. A. Shinn, USGS, St. Petersburg, FL, 12:00-12:15pm, Location: Cloister.
    Significant degradation in the Everglades and Florida Bay ecosystem usually associated with human factors also coincides with the long-term African drought and a four-fold influx of dust that began impacting Florida in the early 1970s. African soil dust delivers arsenic, phosphorous, sulfates, pesticides, microbes, pollen, and probably seeds and insects to all south Florida environments. Dust-borne elements can also benefit flora and have been shown to deliver essential nutrients to the Amazon rain forest. Atmospheric dust likely is both a benefit and detriment to Florida's environment. The USGS Global Dust project is attempting to characterize and determine the effects of dust borne nutrients, toxics, and exotics on south Florida. Previous studies show that about half the atmospheric particles that settle in south Florida during summer months originate in North Africa.

  • Factors Affecting Nutrient Delivery to Chesapeake Bay: Implications for Restoring Water-Quality Conditions in the Nation's Largest Estuary, Scott W. Phillips, USGS, Baltimore, MD 1:35-1:50pm, Location: Cloister.
    Excessive nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay and many other estuaries have caused low dissolved oxygen, loss of submerged aquatic vegetation, and toxic algal blooms. In spite of efforts since the mid 1980s the Bay was listed as an impaired water body under the Clean Water Act in 2000. So the Chesapeake Bay Program must meet standards for dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, and water clarity by 2010. The program has revised strategies; however, concern is growing that the Bay's water-quality will not be restored by 2010 because ground water is an important pathway for nitrogen to reach the Bay and its median age is 10 years in shallow aquifers in the watershed. While these factors will make meeting the 2010 water-quality criteria in Chesapeake Bay very difficult, the information is being used to better plan actions that may provide the most rapid water-quality improvement in the Bay.

  • Detecting Trends in Water Temperatures in the Lower Klamath River, California, John M. Bartholow, USGS, Fort Collins Science Center, Fort Collins, CO, 5:00-7:00pm. Location: Poster & Exhibit Area.
    This poster reviews evidence of a multi-decade trend of increasing temperatures in the lower main stem Klamath River. These high temperatures are stressful for cold-water salmon, and place the Klamath on an ecological "edge" of salmon tolerance. Model simulations show there is a high probability that water temperatures have increased about 0.5°C per decade since the early 1960s. Water temperature has been implicated as a factor limiting the recovery of salmon in the Klamath Basin. The season of temperatures stressful to salmon has lengthened by about one month over the period studied and the average length of main stem river with cool summer temperatures has declined by about 5 miles per decade.

  • Quantifying the Effect of Dam Removal on Water Temperatures in the Lower Klamath River, California, and Implications for Salmon Recovery, John M. Bartholow, USGS, Fort Collins Science Center, Fort Collins, CO, 5:00-7:00pm. Location: Poster & Exhibit Area.
    On the Lower Klamath River, water temperature is influenced by multiple main stem impoundments that support hydroelectric generation and irrigation. Elevated water temperatures may be one factor among many responsible for reducing Klamath salmon stocks. Some parties to the re-licensing of hydropower facilities are considering dam removal. We applied models for a 40-year post-dam period and re-estimated the river's water temperatures.

  • Restoration of Western River Ecosystems: Reality or Rigormortis?, Marshall Flug, Fort Collins Science Center (FORT), USGS, Fort Collins, CO, 5:00-7:00pm. Location: Poster & Exhibit Area.
    The Klamath River and its main tributary the Trinity River were placed under the California and National Wild and Scenic Rivers Systems to protect their outstanding fishery values. This poster provides a brief overview of twenty years of restoration efforts for the Klamath River and sets the stage for companion posters describing simulated water management operations developed at the USGS Fort Collins Science Center to improve fish restoration.

  • The South Florida Information Access (SOFIA) System, Heather S. Henkel, USGS Coastal and Watershed Studies, St. Petersburg, FL, 5:00-7:00pm. Location: Poster & Exhibit Area.
    In 1995, USGS created the South Florida Information Access (SOFIA) system to provide easy access to research and products of the USGS and other federal, state, and local science providers on the south Florida ecosystem. SOFIA was designed for program managers and scientists working on Everglades restoration, and members of the public interested in USGS research and the science behind the Everglades restoration. The SOFIA website ( contains links to project descriptions, proposals, publications, presentations, contact information, and general interest items such as photographs and posters.

    Wed., Dec. 8

  • An Overview of the Glen Canyon AMP: An Experiment in Collaborative, Science-based Ecosystem Restoration, Dennis B. Fenn, USGS/Biological Res. Discipline, Southwest Biological Science Center, Flagstaff, AZ, 9:20-9:40am, Location: Great Hall
    The Colorado River ecosystem harbors significant physical, biological, cultural and recreational resources. Although it is the longest riparian segment in the U.S. free of development, the Colorado River ecosystem today differs significantly from its natural character. Glen Canyon Dam has had dramatic impacts on downstream resources including the Grand Canyon. An Adaptive Management Program (AMP) for Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River ecosystem was established in 1996, which the National Research Council called it "...a science-policy experiment of local, regional, national, and international importance." Fenn will discuss lessons learned from eight years of adaptive management.

  • Three Dams and Three Different Solutions to Restoring Salmon Populations, Noah S. Adams, USGS, Columbia River Research Laboratory, Cook, WA, 11:45-12:00, Location Great Hall Center.
    Man-made barriers have significantly altered the ecosystem of the Columbia River basin. Since construction of these facilities, salmon and steelhead populations have steadily declined to about 25 percent of their historic levels. No single approach will likely restore these populations. We describe three barriers to salmon migration and the different approaches that are being implemented to aid in the recovery of threatened and endangered salmon populations in the Columbia River Basin.

    Thurs, Dec. 9
  • Understanding the Role of Natural Processes in Guiding Human Restoration Efforts, Bruce F. Molnia, USGS, Reston, VA, 11:45-12:00, Location: Great Hall East.
    Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska (GLBA) is most remote and least human-impacted areas in the U.S. Since the mid-18th century, glacier retreat has exposed more than a million acres of land surface. Similarly, four post-1840 earthquakes produced giant waves that removed all vegetation from more than a thousand acres of shoreline. GLBA is one of the best locations on Earth to study natural landscape evolution and ecosystem development. In spite of its remote location, the area has an extensive photographic history to document dramatic changes.

  • A New Aerial Survey Method to Monitor the Response of Manatees to Restoration of the Florida Everglades, Catherine A. Langtimm, USGS, Florida Integrated Science Center, Gainesville, FL, 5:00-7:00pm. Location: Poster & Exhibit Area.
    The endangered Florida manatee is a coastal near-shore and riverine marine mammal dependent on freshwater for drinking and seagrass and freshwater vegetation for forage. Hydrological restoration of the Everglades should result in changes to freshwater and seagrass availability. Because manatees move freely along the coast, they are ideal indicators of environmental change. We are developing a new approach to monitoring manatees at a relatively large scale with aerial surveys.

  • Water Quality in South Florida's Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge ---Trends and Spatial Characteristics of Selected Constituents, Benjamin F. McPherson, USGS, Tampa, FL, 5:00-7:00pm. Location: Poster & Exhibit Area.
    We describe water quality of the interior and perimeter marshes of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and the significant effect of water from the nearby canals draining agricultural lands on dissolved solids, nutrients, and pesticides in the marshes. Proposed increases in canal inflow to the Refuge associated with Everglades Restoration could adversely affect water quality over greater expanses of marsh.

    Fri, Dec. 10

  • Abrupt Climate Change: Implications for Coastal Ecosystem Restoration, Thomas M. Cronin, USGS, Reston, VA, 8:35-8:50am, Location: Great Hall Center.
    The causes of abrupt climate changes are not understood. Paleoclimatic data show regional temperature changes of up to 10 °C, extreme changes in mean annual or seasonal precipitation, and large changes in ecosystems. Given the likelihood of abrupt climate changes in the future, we consider their potential impacts on ecosystems and the implications for ecosystem restoration and management. We will present evidence for abrupt climate changes in coastal ecosystems of Chesapeake, Florida and Biscayne Bays to provide insight into baseline levels of variability in ecosystems prior to extensive human disturbance of environments.
    The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

    To receive USGS news releases go to to subscribe. Note to Editors: USGS Director Chip Groat is available for interviews on Dec. 6-7. Please call the contact, above. Groat will present Science for Ecosystem Restoration on Mon, Dec. 6 from 2:20-2:50pm.

    US Geological Survey

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