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The Value of a Regional Water Quality Monitoring Network in Restoration Planning in South Florida

Joseph N. Boyer

Southeast Environmental Research Center (SERC), OE-148, Florida International University, Miami, FL

We operate a network of 330 fixed sampling sites distributed across estuarine and coastal ecosystems of South Florida including: Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Whitewater Bay, Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island, Rookery Bay NERR, and Pine Island Sound. The function of the SERC Water Quality Monitoring Network is to address regional water quality concerns which extend beyond individual political boundaries. Funding for the Network originates from different agencies, who see this as a value-added program. The variables currently being measured include temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, ammonium, nitrate, nitrite, total organic nitrogen, soluble reactive phosphorus, total phosphorus, total organic carbon, chlorophyll a, alkaline phosphatase activity, turbidity, and light extinction.

The large scale of this monitoring program has allowed us to assemble a much more holistic view of broad physical/chemical/biological interactions occurring over the South Florida hydroscape. One of the products of this program is a quasi-synoptic "big picture" of nutrient and phytoplankton biomass distributions over the South Florida coastal waters. The Network has become a well-used resource by scientists interested in complimentary data and by agencies in the TMDL development. In addition, the information on nutrient sources, transport, spatial variability, and temporal trends gained from this program is crucial to measuring the performance of the ongoing $8 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Rather than thinking of water quality monitoring as being a static, non-scientific pursuit, we want it to be viewed as a progressive tool for answering management questions and developing new scientific hypotheses.

Keywords: water quality, nutrients, phytoplankton, restoration, management

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