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Florida Lake Management Society Annual Conference, Naples, Florida, June 4 – 7, 2007

THE USE OF CONCEPTUAL ECOSYSTEM MODELS IN DETERMINING THE EFFECTS OF FUTURE LAND DEVELOPMENT AND IN DEVELOPING MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES TO DECREASE IMPACT ON NATURAL RESOURCES: BIG CYPRESS REGION, FL.

Nellie E. Morales, Ph.D. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc. AECOM West Palm Beach, FL

Purpose

Conceptual ecosystem models are non-quantitative planning tools that identify the major anthropogenic drivers and stressors on the ecosystem, the ecological effects of these stressors, and the most significant attributes or indicators of these ecological responses (Ogden, et. al., 2005) . As part of South Florida Restoration effort, a set of 12 conceptual ecological models (CEMs) was developed to provide a framework to evaluate the effects of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) on ecosystem attributes or functions. However, these CEMs could also be used to evaluate the ecological effects of landuse changes on ecosystem attributes. One of these models, the Big Cypress Regional model (Duever, 2005; Roybal, 2006), was used to determine the effect of future land use plans on sub-basins within the Big Cypress Region. Furthermore, the model was utilized to develop management recommendations to decrease the impact of future urban development on the Big Cypress Basin attributes.

Methods

An assessment tool was developed to evaluate the potential impacts of landuse changes on environmental resources in the Big Cypress Basin (Morales, 2005). This tool was developed using the Big Cypress Basin CEM as a guideline. The Big Cypress Basin CEM presents a suite of assumptions that explain the hypothesized cause and effect linkages among environmental stressors and ecosystem functions in the Basin (Duever, 2005). In addition, the model lists the set of performance measures used as indicators of environmental conditions in the Basin that have been selected as targets for restoration.

The linkages presented in the Big Cypress Basin CEM were used in this study to identify the ecosystem functions future land use activities and restoration efforts would affect in the Big Cypress Basin. The hydrologic, ecological and water quality performance measures identified in the Basin CEM were used to identify the qualitative changes in ecosystem functions that would be expected to occur due to urban development; such as qualitative changes in water flow, number of wading bird nestings, plant community gradients, and turbidity increases.

Results

Future urban development plans in Estero Bay, Trafford, West Collier and East Collier sub-basins focus on converting selected tracts of farmland and undeveloped land to residential areas (Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 2005). In these areas, sheet flow will be channelized, wetlands will

Session 5B – Page 8

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