Marine and Estuarine Goal Setting for South Florida (MARES)
MARES aims to reach a science-based consensus about the defining characteristics and fundamental regulating processes of a South Florida coastal marine ecosystem that is both sustainable and capable of providing the diverse ecological services upon which our society depends. Collaboration among stakeholders is being gathered during 12 public workshops planned over the three-year project period that started in September 2009.
MARES represents a collaboration among academic scientists, federal and state agency experts and non-governmental organizations working in close conjunction with federal and state environmental managers, private industry stakeholders and interested members of the public.
A three-step process is being used to develop ecosystem report cards.
Step 1 is the development of Integrated Conceptual Ecosystem Models (ICEMs) for three sub-regions of south Florida; The Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas, the Southwest Florida Shelf, the Southeast Florida Shelf, and the total marine ecosystem that couples each of the MARES ICEMs with existing models for Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay and the Caloosahatchee Estuary.
Figure 1. MARES Study Site
The ICEMs incorporate not only the best available information about relevant natural science, but also incorporate human dimensions science and societal processes. The models illustrate cause and effect relationships in the ecosystem, and also identify valued services provided by the ecosystem and account for ecosystem management activities (Responses) intended to mitigate the adverse effects on the ecosystem (Impacts).
Step 2 of the project is to develop Quantitative Ecosystem Indicators that can be monitored to measure change and reflect the condition of the ecosystem. They must be present throughout the coastal system and be a key attribute or effect in the ICEM. Indicators must also integrate the system-wide response to various ecosystem drivers. One example of a QEI is algal bloom status in Florida Bay. The concentration, duration and spatial extent of chlorophyll a with respect to historical conditions assess changes in the habitat.
Step 3 is the development of an Ecosystem Report Card. The reports provide an overview of the condition of the ecosystem using a stoplight approach with red, green, and yellow rankings. The Report Cards provide the public, managers, and researchers with a quick guide for identifying areas that require immediate attention and those that are meeting consensus goals quantified as indicator targets in step two.