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Ecosystem Science at North Fork St. Lucie River Aquatic Preserve Quick Topics

Effective resource management begins with knowing the location, condition, extent, and biology of the resources in need of protection. The preserve's Ecosystem Science Management Program contains the tools (e.g. monitoring, mapping, research, and modeling) that preserve staff use to assess the natural resources in the North Fork SLR. Ecosystem Science goals for the preserve include:

  • Development of partnerships to capture resource data necessary to understand and manage the system.
  • Data analysis and interpretation.
  • Facilitation of information exchange among groups collecting data within the preserve.
Water quality sampling

Water quality sampling

  • Submerged and Emergent Plant Mapping
    Resource managers have documented seagrass dynamics in the SLR since the 1940s but little is known about the location, abundance and species of other submerged and emergent vegetation in the North Fork SLR. Widgeon grass and shoal grass were once present in the southern portion of the SLR, but last observed in 2002. Emergent plants have not been mapped within the preserve. Mapping smartweed and panic grass in the northern reaches is especially important.

  • Oyster Reef Mapping
    Oyster reef monitoring projects have helped track their recent decline and assess current restoration efforts.

  • Floodplain Vegetation Mapping
    Floodplain vegetation monitoring is being conducted to help determine the effectiveness of wetland restoration projects.
  • Natural Lands Mapping
    It is important that the natural lands, including emergent and submergent vegetation (other than seagrass), be fully mapped and ground-truthed in order to provide an accurate description of the preserve's current natural lands composition and distribution.

  • Bathymetry and Sediments
    Rapid sedimentation rates have promoted the formation of large, oxygen depleted muck deposits within the SLR. Historic bathymetric data can help managers target specific sites for restoration, but to accomplish this the existing date needs to be digitized as GIS data layers.

  • Rare and Listed Species Monitoring
    Wood stork nesting activities have been monitored at the Mud Cove rookery since 2004 preserve staff will continue to monitor wood stork nesting activities at this rookery and look for additional nesting activity within the preserve each year. Partnerships will be formed to survey and monitor mangrove rivulus and opossum pipefish in the preserve. Preserve staff will also initiate a great land crab monitoring project that is compatible with methodologies established though other programs.

  • Fish Research and Monitoring
    Fish community research and monitoring in the SLR, and more specifically the preserve, has been accomplished primarily through collaboration among several state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and volunteers.

  • Bird Rookery Research
    The North Fork SLR currently has one rookery in Mud Cove that supports wood stork, egrets, herons and anhinga. Reproductive success of the federally and state-endangered wood stork was monitored weekly during the 2004-6 nesting seasons. Staff will continue to monitor the wood stork and other bird species (currently great egret, snowy egret, cattle egret, tricolored heron and anhinga) utilizing the Mud Cove and/or newly established rookeries within the preserve.

  • Water Quality
    Water quality monitoring in the SLR is currently conducted by six separate agencies and non-governmental organizations. Preserve staff have documented all the monitoring sites, sampling frequency, parameters collected by each group, how to access individual databases for regular updates and primary points of contact for questions and public comments. A reference library for SLR water quality data reports and peer-reviewed literature is maintained.
    Because of the extensive degradation of water quality in the SLR as a whole, it is imperative that preserve staff establish a mode of communication with the groups collecting data and use it to better understand average fluctuations in water quality within the preserve.









Last updated: April 06, 2015

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