Now in its ninth iteration, the committee continues to work with several federal and state agencies, including the US Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District. Walters has been appointed to six of the nine NASEM committees, including the current one, which held its first meeting last August. The most recent report, Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Eighth Biennial Review – 2020, was also released in August after touring the legislature, executive staff, agency staff and others. key stakeholders.
While the NASEM committee was created to assess progress in the restoration of the Everglades, it must include other factors such as climate change in its assessment.
“The panel projected what will happen with more precipitation and higher temperatures due to climate change,” Walters noted. “As you can imagine, sea level rise is a huge problem with catering. Two feet is a dramatic rise in the Everglades, so they should factor that into their planning. “
Rising sea levels are not the only concern facing restoration efforts. Much of Florida sits atop a complex aquifer system that provides fresh water that supports the ecosystem and human populations. As the fresh water moves south from the Kissimmee River to Lake Okeechobee and finally to the Everglades during the rainy season, it begins to mix with the salt water from the coasts. This slightly salty water, or brackish water, helps create estuarine ecosystems that provide critical habitat for a variety of species. However, increasing the “salinity” of the water too much can have dangerous consequences for its residents.
“Salinization is a big problem because the less fresh water that flows south, the more salt water can get in,” he said. “One of the things the restoration will do is increase fresh water to the south to restore natural salinity, which will benefit oyster beds, estuaries and a whole range of other resources in the area. Florida.”
As Walters pointed out, “Restoration isn’t just about the Everglades, it’s the water supply plan for South Florida, how they’re going to have enough water for urban areas, agriculture. and the ecosystem. It is also flood control. All of these things are intertwined. “
This synergy between different stakeholders, NASEM committees and those carrying out restoration efforts makes the program politically strong at federal, state and local levels.
“All the stakeholders came together and made this compromise rather than fighting for what little water there is,” Walters said. “We all need water.
Walter’s work embodies the missions of the Global Change Center and the Fralin Life Sciences Institute to support innovative research, education and awareness in environmental life sciences that improve the human condition.
“I still regard Jeff Walter’s work as a prime example of science as a tremendous service to society,” said William Hopkins, director of the Global Change Center, associate executive director of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute and professor of Fish and of wildlife at the College of Natural Resources and the Environment. “His unwavering dedication to restoring the Everglades, along with his leadership in saving endangered species, exemplifies how we can contribute to the greater good of society and have a lasting positive impact on the environment on which we depend. “
Written by Heather Drew