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Researchers study water levels in the Everglades in living laboratory

Posted: 10:31 AM, Sep 12, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-17 07:42:55-04
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PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla.-- A research project underway in the Everglades is leading to ways to protect the Florida wetlands.

Inside the Arthur R Marshal Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge there is the Loxahatchee Impoundment Landscape Assessment, or LILA. LILA is 80 acres of man-made Everglades where dirt and grass used to be.

“We are educating the scientific community on the mysteries of the Everglades,” said scientist Eric Cline.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Florida Water Management District, and the Army Corps of Engineers created the four different cells that make up LILA.

Researchers can control the water levels is each cell to study the effects water has on the Everglades.

Scientist Mark Cook is studying how wading birds are impacted by different water levels.

“My role is to try and understand their hydraulic requirements," said Cook.

He said they are looking at how a drought or a flood impacts the birds. “They are important indicator species of how to get the water right again or the Everglades."

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Cline said researches have successfully made tree islands, places where 90 percent of the Everglades biodiversity lives. Now tree islands can be rebuilt in the Everglades.

“We have proven that is the case here,” said Cline.

LILA also helps provide information to water managers about moving water through the Everglades.

“Sometimes we want floods, sometimes we want droughts, we shouldn’t always be monitoring for a single steady line all the time,” said Cook.

Scientists from all over the world study LILA. Cook and Cline said the project will continue to help them protect the Everglades.

“The Everglades is a test for people, and if we can fix the Everglades and pass that test we can keep the planet,” said Cline.

The public can learn about LILA by visiting the research site in the wildlife refuge.