Within the science and natural resource management fields, people often say what gets measured gets managed. But in a well studied ecosystem such as the Everglades, how do decades of scientific information get accurately translated into restoration plans? Through the use of synthesis science, researchers from the Florida Coastal Everglades LTER site compiled interdisciplinary data to evaluate the cost and benefits of four different restoration scenarios, all with the aim to restore the flow of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, while ensuring flood protection and water supply for millions of people.

An aerial shot looks over the wetland-ocean interface

This work was performed in collaboration with the Synthesis of Everglades Restoration and Ecosystem Services (SERES) project, which provides a process for improving knowledge exchange among all of the stakeholders involved in the multibillion dollar restoration of the Everglades. The SERES project was initiated in 2010 when stakeholders realized that a new, broader synthesis effort was needed to update the roadmap for Everglades restoration. With the understanding that information co-produced by scientists, policymakers, and other stakeholders is more likely to be accepted and useful for generating solutions, the SERES project structured their approach to link scientists and managers.

The work of scientists and managers is often driven by different questions and ways of communicating results, which presents challenges when bridging the science-management gap.. The SERES project took a different approach and used key questions posed by decision makers to guide the scientific analyses. This broad-brush approach helped address key management questions and, with the help of a graphic designer, the results were distilled into easy to read infographics of the different scenarios.

Through this work, the team discovered that all restoration options improved the natural habitat in the Everglades when compared to the existing conditions. By comparing the benefits and costs of the four different plans, the experts found that expanding aboveground surface water storage and reducing water flow barriers by 69% provided the best ecological benefits for the least money spent.

This article serves as an introduction to the SERES project and the special issue of Restoration Ecology. The SERES feature weaves together the science behind the restoration plans and provides guidance for incorporating this science in management plans.

Sources: Restoration Ecology. 2017. Science synthesis for management as a way to advance ecosystem restoration: evaluation of restoration scenarios for the Florida Everglades. DOI: 10.1111/rec.12566