UF Scientists To Participate In Everglades Restoration Conference

By:
Tom Nordlie (352) 392-1773 x 277

Source(s):
Ronnie Best Ronnie_Best@USGS.gov, (305) 348-3965
Ramesh Reddy krr@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu, (352) 392-1804
Joseph Schaefer SchaeferJ@wec.ufl.edu, (352) 392-7622

GAINESVILLE, Fla—Scientists from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will participate in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Science Conference in Naples next month, joining hundreds of experts to discuss a 30-year plan to restore the Florida Everglades.

The five-day conference, to be held Dec. 11-15 at the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club, will host physical, biological and social scientists from universities and government agencies, said conference chairman Ronnie Best, chief of the restoration ecology branch of the U. S. Geological Survey in Miami. Conference topics include wildlife ecology, water circulation, water quality and treatment, land use, agricultural economics and data management, he said.

The conference will include more than 275 presentations and informational posters, Best said. More than 375 people have registered to attend the conference.

“The main goal of this conference is to evaluate how far we’ve come in restoring the Florida Everglades,” said Ramesh Reddy, chairman of UF’s soil and water science department. “We’ll be discussing research that’s been done, how useful that research is and how the research data can be used to restore the Everglades ecosystem.”

Faculty from UF’s wetland biogeochemistry laboratory will present two papers at the conference on water and soil chemistry in the Everglades. Other UF participants include scientists in entomology and nematology, food and resource economics, wildlife ecology and conservation and soil and water science, as well as the Center for Wetlands and Center for Natural Resources.

“The UF has played a major role in supplying the science that provides the foundation for this conference,” said Joseph Schaefer, director of Center for Natural Resources and moderator for a conference session on bird population studies.

“This is a very large conference, considering that it’s dedicated to one specific geographical area,” Best said.

The conference is an outgrowth of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and Working Group, a combined state and federal task force created in 1996 to oversee restoration of the Everglades, Best said. The science coordination team for the task force recommended that the conference be held to provide an overview of all scientific activities for Everglades restoration, he said.

“The conference is especially important because the state and federal government recently allocated $7.8 billion toward Everglades restoration,” Best said. “The theme of the conference is ‘defining success.’ In other words, how do we define success in regard to restoring the Everglades? Before we begin to use this funding, we need to know what we can expect to achieve.”

He said the Everglades is a unique wetlands ecosystem located in South Florida. Historically, the Everglades has provided many ecological benefits, including wildlife habitat, flood control, water quality enhancement and long-term recharge of ground water, Best said.

Development and pollution damaged the Everglades throughout much of the 20th century, he said, but restoration efforts begun in the mid-1980s are making progress.

“Governor Chiles and now Governor Bush aggressively picked up the theme of Everglades restoration and have pushed it along very well,” Best said. “The fact that this restoration plan is supported by both political parties shows the significance of the problem and the quality of the plan.”

For further information or online registration, visit the conference Web site at http://www.ifas.ufl.edu/~conferweb/everglades.


EDITOR’S NOTE
Julie Carson from UF’s Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee will be available at the conference to handle special media requests. Telephone (941) 658-3400, fax (941) 658-3469, e-mail carson@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu.

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