National Park Service

South Florida/Caribbean I&M Network (SFCN)

Wetland Ecotones and Community Structure Monitoring

Protocol

Parks and partners are monitoring wetland ecotones and community structure. SFCN is not developing a protocol but will link to reports and summaries.

Monitoring Reports by Partners

Resource Briefs, Reports, and Data

There are currently no additional SFCN resource briefs, reports, or data concerning this monitoring topic.

Importance/Issues

Healthy wet prairies and ridge and slough communities are considered critically important in supporting and restoring the Greater Everglades foodweb. Vegetation also shows visible response over relatively few years to changes in drivers and stressors. The freshwater wetlands community composition in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve varies with flow, hydroperiod, fire history, nutrient enrichment, and invasive species. Over the past century, water has been diverted away from the Water Conservation Areas (WCAs), Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, resulting in diminished sheetflow, reduced hydroperiods, and increased nutrients. This has been associated with a drying of Shark River Slough and marl prairies in EVER and eastern BICY, loss of tree islands especially in the WCAs, and loss of ridge and slough patterning especially in the WCAs. In addition there are concerns that development to the north of Big Cypress may also lead to diminished water entering the preserve on the northwestern portion of the park coupled with nutrient enrichment of the water that does enter. CERP is intended to rehabilitate flow and hydropatterns and reduce nutrient enrichment. This vital sign is intended to better inform decision-makers regarding the status of these wetlands and directions of change.

Monitoring Objectives

  • Are wetland ecotones shifting due to changes in hydrology or other physical factors (e.g., fire, nutrients, and episodic metrological events.)?
  • What are the status and trends in plant community composition and structure?

Status and Trends

Everglades National Park
Status and trends for this vital sign are monitored by partners and reported through the RECOVER: 2009 System Status Report.

Approach

Two large monitoring efforts are already underway in Everglades National Park:

  • The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) RECOVER Program is designing monitoring for assessing changes in ridges and sloughs as well as the Shark River Slough to marl prairies gradient.
  • An existing Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow habitat monitoring program is underway in the marl prairies where they are found. The program monitors species composition in about 200 plots / year in a stratified random design throughout these areas. Although this program is limited to those areas of marl prairie where the sparrow is found, collaborating with this program could provide valuable information on the status of the marl prairies in addition to the gradients work mentioned above.

SFCN will seek to link to reports and summaries from these efforts.

For areas of Big Cypress such as Lostman's slough and the concerns about changing hydrology in north-western BICY as well as BISC, SFCN will work with park resource management and area researchers to scope out these monitoring needs or determine whether vegetation mapping is sufficient. At that point given priority levels and SFCN funding, SFCN may develop protocols or Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as appropriate.

This vital sign also overlaps with the Vegetation Communities Extent and Distribution vital sign. The vegetation map can be used to assess areas where trees and shrubs are encroaching on wet prairies and areas where cattails are increasing or decreasing in extent.

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Last Updated: May 13, 2013 Contact Webmaster