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Research and Monitoring Programs of Wekiva River Aquatic Preserve Quick Topics
Researchers collecting turtles

Researchers with peninsula cooter in Wekiwa Spring Run

  • Central Florida Turtle Research Group

    This project started in 1999 when a group of professors and students from Penn State University came to central Florida and began studying peninsula cooters, red-bellied sliders and other turtles. The work continues and is one of the largest and longest-running studies of its kind in the United States. The data demonstrated that Wekiwa Springs had the largest population of freshwater turtles in Florida and was used to guide recent rulemaking by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
 
  • Bird Survey

    For many people, birds are the most visible sign of any ecosystem and play an important role in their enjoyment of those areas. Bird surveys within the Wekiva River Aquatic Preserve are conducted every quarter using staff and volunteers. This work is done from the river, noting where species of interest (bald eagle, limpkin, wood stork and others) are seen and nest. This information can help us understand home ranges (where the birds live and travel), population trends and nesting habits.
Limpkin and chicks

The limpkin, an indicator species for the Wekiva River, with chicks

  • Limpkin Survey

    Limpkins, large brown birds streaked with white, often observed wading among aquatic plants, are considered an indicator species for the Wekiva River. Designated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a species of special concern, limpkins feed on apple snails, a freshwater snail that thrives only in good quality water. Community volunteers from local Audubon chapters and the Central Florida Zoo assisted the staff biologist with monthly bird surveys of the Wekiva and its tributaries. A comparison of 2005 survey data with that from 1992 and 2002 surveys indicates that the Wekiva River limpkin population is stable.
Eelgrass

Eelgrass in the Wekiva River

  • Submerged Aquatic Vegetation

    Plants are commonly considered to be the base of the food chain and a key determining factor in the health of an ecosystem. The Wekiva River, Wekiwa Spring Run and Rock Springs Run were surveyed for SAV in 2006-2008. Four native species were observed – spikerush (Eleocharis sp.), Southern naiad (Najas guadalupensis), eelgrass (Vallisneria americana), horned pondweed (Zannichellia palustris) – and covered approximately 118 acres out of the 253 acres of submerged bottom surveyed.
Alligator in algae and hydrilla

Alligator in algae and hydrilla

  • Algae

    A large amount of algae in the water is often considered a sign of high nutrients (a condition called eutrophication), often resulting from additional inputs from human sources (such as stormwater runoff and wastewater). A study concluded in 2010 compared algae species and coverage in Wekiwa Springs Run and Rock Springs Run to three springs (Alexander Spring Creek, Juniper Creek and Silver Glen Springs) thought to be less impacted by eutrophication. Although comparisons of water quality and algae were inconclusive, Rock Springs Run had less algae than any of the other sites. Additionally, algae biomass was generally greatest in the headwaters and decreased downstream for both Wekiwa Springs Run and Rock Springs Run.
Algae on eelgrass

Algae attached to eelgrass is associated with additional nutrients from the watershed and springshed

  • Water Quality

    The amounts of nutrients (primarily nitrogen and phosphorus) in the springs feeding the Wekiva River have increased over the past several decades due to human activities and population increases in the r egion. Many different sources, including stormwater runoff from neighborhoods and agricultural operations and sewer and septic systems contribute to the issue. The FDEP Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program is an attempt to identify and improve water quality in the state. The Basin Management Action Plan (one of the final steps in the TMDL process) identifies projects that will help improve water quality. Several ongoing projects continue to better understand sources of pollution in the watershed. For example, collection of field data, including water levels and flows, vegetation, and soils will be used for the re-examination of Minimum Flows and Levels.
  • Other Projects

    Researchers from many universities and private and public organizations continue to do work in the Wekiva River Aquatic Preserve watershed. Recent and ongoing projects include:
    • Research and monitoring of mitigation activities on previously disturbed wetlands at Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park.
    • Dye-trace, channel morphology and vegetative cover studies in spring-fed rivers.
    • A survey and collection of bacteria, isopods and amphipods from aquatic caves.
    • Florida Springs' Initiative water quality and biological monitoring in Wekiwa Springs Run.
    • Fisheries survey in Mill Creek, a tributary to Wekiwa Springs Run.
 

 

Last updated: January 28, 2011

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