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A.R.M. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Enhanced Water Quality Program - 8th Annual Report - Calendar Year 2011

October 2012

Executive Summary

(Note: entire PDF is available for download below)

Congress appropriated funds to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2004 which funded an enhanced water quality monitoring network and hydrodynamic and water quality models to improve the scientific understanding of water quality in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge1 (Refuge). The network and models provide information that is used in management decisions to better protect Refuge resources. The enhanced water quality monitoring network complements the compliance network monitored as a part of the 1992 Federal Consent Decree (Case No. 88-1886-CIV-MORENO) by characterizing the water quality of a larger Refuge area, particularly the fringe area potentially impacted by canal water intrusions. Monthly grab samples have been collected at 37 to 39 stations located in the marsh and canal since June 2004. The number of grab sample stations has reduced to 37 in recent years because two stations located near the canal were overrun with cattail making them inaccessible. Additionally, continuous measurements of conductivity have been collected along seven transects, four of which extend from surface water discharge points in the canal into the interior. This report is the eighth annual report, with analyses focused on January through December 2011, and with comparisons made to the preceding years (2004 through 2010).

Water quality data and analyses of canal water intrusion into the Refuge marsh presented in this report document continued intrusion of rim canal water into the Refuge interior, adding to a growing information base about canal water impacts to the Refuge. Intrusion of nutrient-rich and high conductivity water from the canal network surrounding the Refuge has been shown to negatively impact Refuge flora and fauna. Important insights gained from 2011 canal water intrusion analyses include:

Analyses of these data continue to support previously suggested management practices that have the potential to minimize intrusion. This year the Refuge did operate outside the boundaries of previous recommendations in an effort to maintain enough water to support forging wildlife in the Refuge. Regardless, a few of these recommendations are summarized as balancing inflow and outflow volumes, reducing the duration of inflows, and reducing inflow rates when the canal stage is lower than the marsh stage.

Based on the surface water conductivity data, the Refuge was classified into four geographic zones: (1) Canal Zone; (2) Perimeter Zone, located from the canal to 2.5 km (1.6 miles) into the marsh; (3) Transition Zone, located from 2.5 km (1.6 miles) to 4.5 km (2.8 miles) into the marsh; and (4) Interior Zone, greater than 4.5 km (2.8 miles) into the marsh. Overall, water quality conditions in the Perimeter continue to be different from, and more impacted than, the Interior Zone. Cattail expansion in the Refuge marsh, negative impacts to periphyton and Xyris spp. in response to nutrient and mineral enrichment, and displacement of sawgrass in the canal water-exposed areas of the marsh are a few examples of marsh impacts.

This report continues to document that water movement between the canals and the marsh is influenced by rainfall, structure-controlled water inflow and outflow into perimeter canals, the difference between canal and marsh stages, and marsh elevation. When combined with our understanding of canal water intrusion’s influence on the marsh, these data continue to suggest that high-nutrient water is having a negative impact on the Refuge marsh (e.g., enriched soil TP, displacement of sawgrass by cattails, loss of Xyris spp., etc.).


1 Public Law 108-108; see House Report No. 108-195, p. 39-41 (2004)


Download PDF of entire report (3.3 MB)
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The authors thank the following contributors, without whom this report would not have been possible: Marcie Kapsch, Rebekah Gibble, Elizabeth Lesley, April Ostrom, Darren Pecora, and Meredith Wilson for water quality sample collection and sonde deployments and collections; SFWMD and Columbia Analytical Services for water chemistry analyses; and SFWMD for the use of DBHYDRO for data availability. Laura Brandt and Mark Musaus provided valuable contributions to the initial phase of this overall program. Finally, we thank Refuge Manager Sylvia Pelizza and Deputy Manager Rolf Olson for their continued support and leadership throughout this project. Funds to conduct the expanded monitoring network at A.R.M. Loxahatchee NWR were provided by the U.S. Congress in P.L. 108-108, the Department of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Act of 2004. Funding for 2012 was obtained, in part, from the Everglades National Park through the DOI Critical Ecosystem Studies Initiative program. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Park Service.

This report should be cited as:

USFWS, 2012. A.R.M. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge - Enhanced Water Quality Program – 8th Annual Report for calendar year 2011 – October 2012. LOXA12-004, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Boynton Beach, FL. 45 pp.

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