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Naples Manor, FL, United States

Baldwin J.D.,Florida Atlantic University | Bass O.L.,South Florida Natural Resources Center | Browder J.A.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Cook M.I.,South Florida Water Management District | And 10 more authors.
Ecological Indicators

The coastal marine environment is currently under threat from many anthropogenic pressures that were identified by the MARES project. Indicators of ecosystem health are needed so that targets can be set to guide protection and restoration efforts. Species of birds that are dependent on coastal habitats are ubiquitous along the coasts of southern Florida. Generally referred to as waterbirds, these species, although not all taxonomically related, share a common dependency on the marine environment for food, nesting habitat, or both. A suite of waterbirds was selected based on their perceived sensitivity to pressures in multiple coastal habitat types. The list of species was refined on the basis of a review of life history for characteristics that might make the species particularly vulnerable. Each selected species was then evaluated for sensitivity to the identified pressures using a hierarchical assessment that took into account the sensitivity, severity, and the temporal and spatial scales of the indicator to the given pressures. The selected suite of indicators was collectively sensitive to all the pressures except one. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Frezza P.E.,Everglades Science Center at Tavernier | Clem S.E.,Audubon Florida
Environmental Biology of Fishes

Florida Keys’ bonefish (Albula vulpes) are an important component of the recreational fishery and their population can serve as an indicator of ecosystem status. Anecdotal reports from long-time fishers of Florida Bay suggest a dramatic reduction in bonefish abundance in recent years. In absence of a reliable long-term dataset, experienced fishers can provide critical information on historical changes in this fishery. To characterize and quantify historical trends and the contemporary status of the Florida Bay bonefish population and fishery, 64 of the fishery’s most reputable and experienced fishers were surveyed using a questionnaire. All but one respondent reported the bonefish population in Florida Bay had declined over the course of their fishing career. Respondents indicated a 78 % decline in bonefish abundance in Florida Bay with no correlation between perceived decline and fisher experience. A significant period of bonefish decline was noted 2001–2012 with 76 % of respondents indicating the largest decline in the population occurred 2007–2011. Fishing effort for bonefish decreased 37 % over the course of respondents’ careers, with 74 % of those respondents indicating this reduced effort was due to lack of fish. Forty-four percent of respondents suggested water quality issues as the primary reason for the observed decline. Two of the larger bonefish decline periods (mid 1990s and 2006–08) corresponded to periods of sustained algal blooms in Florida Bay. The most significant decline in bonefish abundance throughout the range of the Florida Keys was reported to have occurred in Florida Bay. Several possible factors leading to the perceived decline in the Florida Bay bonefish population are discussed, and the continued need to focus on this population throughout Everglades restoration efforts is emphasized. © 2015 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht Source

Rehage J.S.,Florida International University | Liston S.E.,Audubon Florida | Dunker K.J.,Alaska Department of Fish and Game | Loftus W.F.,Aquatic Research and Communication LLC

Short-hydroperiod Everglades wetlands have been disproportionately affected by reductions in freshwater inflows, land conversion and biotic invasions. Severe hydroperiod reductions in these habitats, including the Rocky Glades, coupled with proximity to canals that act as sources of invasions, may limit their ability to support high levels of aquatic production. We examined whether karst solution holes function as dry-down refuges for fishes, providing a source of marsh colonists upon reflooding, by tracking fish abundance, nonnative composition, and survival in solution holes throughout the dry season. We paired field surveys with an in situ nonnative predation experiment that tested the effects of predation by the recent invader, African jewelfish (Hemichromis letourneuxi) on native fishes. Over the 3 years surveyed, a large number of the solution holes dried before the onset of the wet season, while those retaining water had low survivorship and were dominated by nonnatives. In the experiment, mortality of eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) in the presence of African jewelfish was greater than that associated with deteriorating water quality. Under current water management, findings suggest that solution holes are largely sinks for native fishes, given the high frequency of drydown, extensive period of fish residence, and predation by nonnative fishes. © Society of Wetland Scientists 2013. Source

Zokan M.,University of Georgia | Ellis G.,University of South Florida | Clem S.E.,Audubon Florida | Lorenz J.,Everglades Science Center | Loftus W.F.,Aquatic Research and Communication LLC
Southeastern Naturalist

The Big Cypress Swamp (BCS) is a large freshwater wetland system and drainage basin (640,000 ha) in southwest Florida and an important component of the Greater Everglades ecosystem. Despite its size and relationship to the Ever glades, the fish fauna of BCS has received little study. Documentation of its fish fauna is important to better understand this dynamic natural system and to monitor changes to the fish community, including the spread of non-indigenous species. To that end, we surveyed the ichthyofauna of freshwater habitats in Big Cypress National Preserve (BCNP), the largest and most intact wetland area (295,000 ha) remaining in BCS. Between October 2002 and May 2004, we recorded 63 fish species from freshwater habitats in BCNP, including 9 non-indigenous species. Species richness was greatest in permanent freshwater habitats and lowest in shallow temporary wetlands and seasonally fresh coastal marshes. The most speciose families were the native Centrarchidae (8 spp.) and the non-native Cichlidae (6 spp.), whereas the most abundant and widely distributed species were members of Cyprinodontidae, Fundulidae, and Poecilidae. Similar to other coastal drainages of southern Florida, BCNP has a relatively high occurrence of euryhaline species (28 spp.). © 2015, BioOne. All rights reserved. Source

Baldwin J.D.,Florida Atlantic University | Bass O.L.,South Florida Natural Resources Center | Browder J.A.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Cook M.I.,South Florida Water Management District | And 10 more authors.
Ecological Indicators

In our companion manuscript we identified 11 waterbirds as indicators of various pressures on the coastal marine ecosystems of southern Florida. Here, we identify the habitats on which these species depend and the ecological linkages that make them representative of those habitats. Through the use of conceptual ecological models (CEMs), we develop tools that can be used by managers/decision makers to evaluate the health of the various habitats in order to rectify myriad problems that are occurring or will possibly occur in the future such that the valuable ecosystem services provided by these habitats can be maximized. We also demonstrate the practical use of these tools by documenting data availability, benchmarks, and scientific needs for each species. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Source

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