|Ecosystem Science at North Fork St. Lucie River Aquatic Preserve
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
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
- 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.
September 24, 2010
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard M.S. 235
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
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