Mechanistic Models of Wetland Biodiversity for Restoration and Management of the Florida Everglades

Michael Huston

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Environmental Sciences Division
Oak Ridge TN 37831-6335 USA
tel: (423) 576-8001
fax: (423) 574-2232

Louis Gross

University of Tennessee


Donald DeAngelis

USGS Biological Research Division

The dramatic deterioration of the Florida Everglades, manifested in the 90% decline in wading birds and the fish die-offs in Florida Bay, has focused national attention on the need to restore the health of this unique ecosystem.

One component of the South Florida Restoration Project, headed by the Army Corps of Engineers, is the development of ecological models for evaluating the effects of alternative hydrologic restoration scenarios, and for guiding environmental monitoring and ecosystem management.

The huge size of this landscape and the complexity of the biological interactions present an unprecedented challenge for computer simulation modeling. To meet this challenge, field researchers and ecological modelers at the University of Tennessee, University of Florida, University of Miami, Florida International University, and University of Maryland, as well as the National Park Service, USGS Biological Research Division, and South Florida Water Management District, are collaborating in an ambitious effort to develop a model that predicts the response of the entire wetland landscape to variation in hydrology.

This project, called the Across Trophic Level System Simulation (ATLSS), represents a new generation of ecological models, which can be called "multi-models" because they are produced by integrating several very different types of models, ranging from hydrologic models, to plant growth models, to models of individual predators, such as the Florida panther.

All of these models are linked through an dynamic geographical information system (GIS) to produce a modeling tool for the assessment and management of the entire wetland ecosystem, from the algae to the panthers.