Over the past several years there have been indications that the environmental health of Florida Bay may be deteriorating. A perceived decline in fishing success for many of the commercial and recreational species that depend upon the Bay as a juvenile nursery habitat may suggest a decline in recruitment. In addition, atypical algal blooms have been reported across much of western Florida Bay and have extended into the Florida Keys. Further, seagrass die-offs have been occurring in western Florida Bay since the summer of 1987, a phenomenon not previously observed in this area nor reported in the scientific literature before that time. Most recently, mangroves within the Bay are reported to be in decline. While the causes of the various problems and the relationships between them are not well understood, there is definite concern that the coastal marine ecosystem of Florida Bay may be in jeopardy.
Since no one can turn back the clock and South Florida's rapid development will almost certainly continue, a series of compromises and tradeoffs will have to be made in restoring and maintaining a healthy South Florida coastal ecosystem including Florida Bay. It is essential that these decisions be made based on reliable scientific information, and to generate the requisite information a group of federal and state agencies have been collaborating in an interagency Florida Bay and Adjacent Marine Systems Science Program that conducts closely complementary research, monitoring, and modeling projects. Together, these components should provide the answers to the most critical scientific questions about the Bay ecosystem.
NOAA’s South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Prediction and Modeling (SFERPM) program is but one component of this interagency effort and while it is a comparatively small player within the overall South Florida Ecosystem Restoration, it is by far the largest supporter of research in the South Florida coastal ecosystem. Not surprisingly, NOAA is particularly concerned with marine living resources dependent on the Bay ecosystem and the possibility that changes in Florida Bay will or are adversely affecting the sustainability of the coral reef ecosystems of the Florida Keys. The goal of SFERPM is to provide timely evaluation of the effects different upstream management alternatives will have upon the ecosystem within Florida Bay and the adjacent coastal marine ecosystem including the coral reefs of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS).
SFERPM is a coordinated effort between NOAA/NOS/CSCOR, NOAA/OAR/AOML, and NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC and is locally managed with offices at both the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami and the Florida Bay Interagency Science Center in Key Largo. This ensures the closest possible integration with our state and federal partners. SFERPM supports both research projects and operational monitoring and modeling. It also maintains the interagency science program’s web site and electronic mail lists, sponsors outreach and education, and leads the interagency program’s physical science research team. SFERPM’s local managers not only serve on the interagency Florida Bay and Adjacent Marine Systems Science Program’s Program Management Committee (PMC) but also represent NOAA on the Science Coordination Team (SCT) and the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Working Group. Local leadership has assured optimal resource allocation and integration of NOAA and other agency contributions.
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Last Updated 10/09/2000