Construction of the C-111 Spreader Canal Phase One project has been complete for nearly a year, a victory made possible thanks to expedition by the South Florida Water Management District. While preliminary reports indicate the project performed well this wet season, future project benefits are closely tied to its operation.
As part of the project’s operating plan, water levels will increase at a certain structure to better counteract the devastating drainage effect of the C-111 canal than just the project pumps and detention basins alone.
Raising water levels in the existing canal system will send even more freshwater to Taylor Slough, the historical freshwater tributary for Florida Bay.
In the years to come, Audubon will work to ensure the project is operated to deliver ecological benefits, such as establishing greater abundances of prey that support game fish and wading bird populations.
According to water district data, managers used the system’s two new pump stations to pull an average of 165 million gallons of water per day out of the C-111 canal from June through mid-November — the equivalent of 244 Olympic-sized swimming pools daily.
All told, the new system was used to divert nearly 28 billion gallons of water from the C-111 during the wet season.
Bonefish populations in Florida Bay have been declining over many years, with steep population decreases noted in the past five years. Beyond an indication of an ecological problem, bonefish were once a big draw for recreational fishing in the Florida Keys. With fewer bonefish to catch, business is going elsewhere. The decline in bonefish could also indicate other ecological problems and affect other species in Florida Bay.
The precise cause of the bonefish decline is unknown, so Audubon scientists are studying what is most important to a bonefish: food.
Have the crabs, shrimp, and worms bonefish need also declined?
The food available—or not available—at bonefish habitats will help Audubon scientists piece together what has led to their virtual disappearance in Florida Bay. Changes in historical water flows through the Everglades has resulted in many changes to the Florida Bay ecosystem, although it is not yet known if the bonefish decline is related to Everglades water flows.
Based in Tavernier, Audubon’s scientists at the Tavernier Science Center are uniquely positioned to study Florida Bay and the backcountry of Everglades National Park.
The South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) process to update the regional plans to protect water for environment in southern Florida is in full swing. These plans, known as the Lower East Coast and Lower West Coast Water Supply Plan updates, impact some of our most treasured habitats through Florida, including Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay, the Water Conservation Areas and Everglades National Park, and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries, among others. The plans are updated once every five years with a 20 year planning horizon.
Our Audubon Florida team and dedicated Audubon chapters have been advocating for these plan updates to increase protections of our delicate ecosystems. We are urging the SFWMD to modify the water supply plan updates to:
Develop and/or update rules and operations to provide true protections for ecosystems, including Biscayne Bay, Lake Okeechobee, Florida Bay, and the Caloosahatchee Estuary.
Increase focus on water conservation and water use efficiency to curb demands.
Enhance water shortage management to better protect natural systems and provide better parity for natural systems and users.
Plan for sea level rise that may result from climate change.
It is crucial that as water managers plan water supply for our region for the next 20 years, they account for the water needed to sustain the environment. Likewise, ecosystems such as Lake Okeechobee must continue to be treated as ecosystems to protect habitat rather than as a reservoir.
Last week Audubon and Audubon chapters on Southwest coast submitted comments on the Lower West Coast Water Supply Plan. Also last week, Audubon Florida gave a presentation “Protecting our Ecosystems for our Economy, Future, and Way of Life.” Click here to download a PDF copy.
Roseate Spoonbills, one of the most iconic and recognizable birds of Florida have recently received some encouraging press from Audubon Everglades Scientists in Florida Bay. After last year’s disastrous breeding season, it seems the beautiful birds are showing some positive signs of return.
But [Roseate Spoonbill] its striking appearance is not why National Audubon Society scientists like Jerry Lorenz have spent nearly 80 years monitoring the bird’s habits in a shallow bay wedged between the southern the Everglades and the Florida Keys.
The spoonbill, which nests on mangrove islands, serves as something of a flying barometer of the health of the bay and the Everglades system that flows into it. So a sudden, mysterious plunge in nesting last year to the lowest numbers in more than a half century had Lorenz and fellow scientists anxious about what might unfold this year.
The prognosis midway through breeding season: Spoonbills are back — though still in numbers far too small to suggest its future is rosy in the bay.
“I’m encouraged,’’ said Lorenz, after snaking through mangroves to check spoonbill nests on an island near Audubon’s research lab in Tavernier. “Last year, we had a massive abandonment of Florida Bay and I have no idea why. I’m hoping it was just a weird blip.’’
STATEMENT BY AUDUBON’S JULIE HILL-GABRIEL ON CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL OF TAMIAMI TRAIL NEXT STEPS PROJECT
Miami, FL – “For over a decade, bridging Tamiami Trail has been one of Audubon’s highest priorities,” said Audubon’s Director of Everglades Policy Julie Hill-Gabriel. “Today marks an important milestone in our journey to help restore the richness and abundance of life in the Everglades.”
Audubon applauds Congress’ passage today of the Omnibus Appropriations Act that allows restoration progress to continue and puts another piece of the puzzle to achieve a restored ecosystem in place. The bill allows the Tamiami Trail next steps project to get underway.
That is the question Audubon’s Dr. Jerry Lorenz faces every day as he leads a band of researchers into marshes and mangrove swamps to monitor the results of Everglades restoration.
Scientists are on the verge of demonstrating that freshwater flows are critical to the success of wading birds in the Everglades. But now dramatic cuts in government funds are cutting off the money Jerry and his science team need to keep going.
To replace those lost funds, Audubon needs to raise $35,500 from people who care about the wildlife of the Everglades.
Everglades restoration depends on sound science. You can help Jerry and his research team today.
Your contribution will be matched dollar for dollar by a foundation that has encouraged Audubon to focus on the science needed for Everglades restoration.
As an added bonus, the first ten donations of $275 or more will receive a signed, limited edition print of the beautiful painting Spoonbill Lagoon – a gorgeous holiday gift for yourself or the nature-lover you know.
Through Audubon’s recently launched virtual laboratory website, Restore Florida Bay, visitors will uncover the interactions between various ecological components of this estuary. The goal is to provide a clear understanding of how weather and water management practices affect the entire Florida Bay food chain, culminating with Roseate Spoonbill nest production. The site provides dynamic visuals of the Florida Bay ecosystem, and how its flora and fauna indicate the health of the Everglades. A series of videos introduces visitors to the research conducted at Audubon’s Tavernier Science Center and explains how the continuation of this data collection is critical in order to determine whether restoration projects deliver ecosystem benefits.
Support from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund enabled the creation of this website, as well as provided Audubon scientists with the opportunity to further analyze existing data sets and more conclusively identify specific restoration targets for Florida Bay. Sixteen years of water quality, submerged aquatic vegetation, and fish community data will receive needed statistical analysis that will further Audubon’s goals of restoring more natural freshwater flows to the southern Everglades.
Visit RestoreFloridaBay.org to advance your knowledge of this ecological treasure and to learn of opportunities to advocate for its restoration. Share your personal story, pictures, and/or video describing why you love Florida Bay. Be sure to take the pledge to become a Florida Bay steward, submit any questions to our experts, and sign up to win a John James Audubon art print of a bird species found in the southern Everglades.
This indicates that the productivity of the estuary has been reduced from former levels. Restoring more historical volumes of freshwater flow to Florida Bay, through restoration projects such as the C-111 Spreader Canal, will help return the density of prey needed to support successful nesting for many species of fish-eating birds.
Please stay tuned to this blog in the coming weeks for additional information on the state of Florida Bay or you can learn more about this issue in an article from Keys News.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Senator Bill Nelson, of Florida, asked the committee to put Everglades National Park back on the list. We commend these leaders for their efforts to restore international attention to the “serious and continuing degradation of its aquatic ecosystem.”
The 21-nation World Heritage Committee oversees the list of World Heritage Sites that are of significant cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. Sites that are deemed to be in jeopardy are placed on the danger list. The list focuses the attention and resources of the international community on these sites, and encourages action to address those threats.
Due to urban and agricultural development in the Everglades, water flow has decreased by 60 percent. Nutrient pollution has increased to the point where the ecosystem is showing significant signs of eutrophication, loss of marine life, and a decline in marine species.
This is the second time the Everglades has been included on this list. The Everglades was first listed in 1993, due to damages from Hurricane Andrew and the deterioration of water quality and flows from agricultural and urban development. In 2007, UNESCO removed the Everglades from the Danger list. Everglades champions and policy makers, led by Senator Nelson, called the de-listing flawed because it ignored recommendations of the scientific community, and did not reflect funding challenges for restoration.
Being restored to the list will make it easier to get preservation money both from the United Nations and local governments.
Well-motivated but not well informed volunteers sent out to clean debris from beaches may be disturbing nesting and other shorebirds. Volunteers eager to move beach litter above the high water line to make it easier to clean up oil that may come ashore are putting beach and marsh nesting birds at risk.
Some people are moving beach debris such as driftwood from the beach onto high-water areas. This is harmful as beach wildlife use naturally occurring beach debris near the water line and may be harmed when debris is piled in upland areas on or near their well camouflaged nests. Traffic in dune areas can also harm vegetation.
Safe Tips for Cleaning Litter off Beaches:
For those who want to clean litter from the beaches in anticipation of oil coming ashore, Audubon recommends the following:
Use approved access points and avoid walking or hiking through marshes or seagrass beds.
Stay below the tidal line.
Leave natural debris in place because it provides nesting benefits to shorebirds and other wildlife.
Only remove man-made litter.
Do not place litter in the dunes or above the high water line.
Don’t use equipment such as rakes, shovels or tractors.
Do not bring ATVs or other motorized vehicles onto the beach.
Do not bring dogs onto the beach (dogs are a primary sources of beach bird disturbance and mortality.)
Respect posted areas and leave signs, posts and twine in place to protect beach nesting bird colonies.
Send us your photos and video of local habitats and wildlife
Audubon of Florida is urging everyone to step lightly on our beaches and follow safety tips if you are engaged in beach clean up activities.
You can also help by taking pictures and videos of the habitats and wildlife in your local communities. This local knowledge could become very useful as the oil spill evolves.
Follow these guidelines when documenting your coastal areas and wildlife and to send images to Audubon of Florida:
When photographing or filming
Follow all Audubon safe tips for beach cleaning.
Keep your distance from nesting grounds, marked areas, and resting birds. Do not flush birds.
Use long range zooms to capture close up images.
Send your images, video or a notification of their availability to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Identify the time, day, date and location that the image was taken, and use GPS coordinates if possible.
Identify and clearly spell the name of the photographer/videographer and provide contact information, email, telephone and address.
Clearly state whether Audubon may have the rights to reprint, publish in print and electronic vehicles, and share your images, providing proper credit.
For large photo or video files, notify us at email@example.com that images are available and we will contact you with instructions for uploading them.
Note that Florida Audubon does not have a budget to pay for images but provides photo credit to the photographer/videographer.
Click Here for Florida updates from the Department of Environmental Protection.
Click Here for the most updated National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maps on the oil spill’s trajectory.
Click Here to visit the Deepwater Horizon central command.