Resilience of the Florida Bay Estuary Study Published

masonMason Smith, a geosciences Ph.D. student, and collaborators, including his advisor, professor, Scott Markwith, Ph.D., published a paper in Marine and Freshwater Research concerning a novel Florida Bay ecosystem model titled, “ Ecosystem structure and resilience of the Florida Bay Estuary: an original ecosystem model with implications for everglades restoration .” 

The paper discusses how the Florida Bay estuary is restricted from its historic freshwater input from the Everglades and is plagued by hypersaline conditions and disturbances such as aperiodic seagrass die-off events. One of the largest restoration efforts in the U.S., the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), aims to restore the freshwater inputs lost, that feed the Florida Bay. Providing world-renowned recreational fishing opportunities and nursery habitat for valuable commercial fisheries, the bay’s condition, coupled with the potential changes from CERP and future climate, highlights the need to implement ecosystem-based management (EBM) approach. The paper’s authors state, “We developed a comprehensive ecosystem model of Florida Bay using Ecopath with Ecosim to provide a thorough understanding of its structure and resilience to environmental disturbances. The results supported the hypothesis that the bay is stabilized through detrital pathways but is not driven primarily through bottom-up control as predicted.” 

The paper identifies several predator-prey relationships for suggested ecological attention in fisheries management, including the ecological benefits of the forage species pink shrimp, clupeids, pinfish, and mullets, and a negative top-down effect of common snook on red drum. The authors go on to say, “The results of the study further support the hypothesis that the restoration of freshwater flows will improve overall resilience in Florida Bay, namely by providing a regime of lower salinity and reduced nutrient enrichment.” Read more.