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Project Summary Sheet

U.S. Geological Survey, Greater Everglades Science Initiative (Place-Based Studies)

Fiscal Year 2003 Project Summary Report

Project Title: American Alligator Ecology and Monitoring for CERP

Project Start Date: 2003 Project End Date: 2006

Web Sites: sofia.usgs.gov, www.atlss.org

Location (Subregions, Counties, Park or Refuge): Greater Everglades Ecosystem

Funding Source: USGS's Greater Everglades Science Initiative (PBS), CESI

Principal Investigator(s): Kenneth G. Rice, Frank J. Mazzotti, Daniel H. Slone

Project Personnel: Andy Maskell, Rena Borkhataria

Supporting Organizations: University of Florida, USDA Forest Service

Associated / Linked Projects:

Overview & Objective(s): Many important questions concerning the effects of Everglades restoration on alligator populations remain unanswered such as the impacts of decompartmentalization, the role of alligator holes as aquatic refugia, and the effects of hydrology on population growth and condition. Further, the methods for monitoring and evaluating restoration success are not clear or have not been adapted for use during CERP. Also, we need to continue to update and validate restoration tools such as population models for use in alternative selection, performance measure development, and prediction. This project will directly address the questions outlined above, develop monitoring methods, and validate restoration tools for use in CERP.

  • Develop monitoring methods necessary for evaluation of restoration success in alligator populations.
  • Understand the effects of decompartmentalization and other CERP projects on restoration of alligator populations.
  • Identify and quantify the extent of aquatic refugia maintained by alligators throughout the system and develop relationships necessary to predict restoration of refugia.
  • Validate and update ecological models for use in prediction of the effects of restoration.

Status: We are continuing to provide parameter information to the ATLSS alligator population model. We are adding to our information concerning the impacts of canals on alligator populations with investigations into alligator production. We have established monitoring of alligator population growth, condition, and size distribution throughout the Greater Everglades. The final areas to be added, WCA3B and Big Cypress National Preserve, are scheduled to be added this FY. The ATLSS Alligator Production Index is now available for use in the restoration process but is also undergoing further calibration, validation, and updating with new data. The ATLSS Alligator Population Model has been completed and has undergone initial expert review, calibration, and validation. Both models are fully functional and available for use in comparison of restoration alternatives.

Recent & Planned Products: In FY02, 2 peer-reviewed journal articles, 2 papers in an international conference proceedings, and 1 book chapter were accepted for publication. We also gave several presentations at National Meetings and GEER in FY03 and 3 other manuscripts were submitted to peer-reviewed journals.

Relevance to Greater Everglades Restoration Information Needs:

  • Mentioned specifically as a science need in the DOI Everglades Restoration Science Prioritization Strategy
  • Addresses Science Objectives 1-5 under Restoration Goal 2A, Ecological Indicators, in the USGS Science Plan in Support of Everglades Restoration.
  • Methods and data necessary for RECOVER's adaptive assessment process and monitoring program.
  • Models, maps, and other GIS products needed for evaluation and prediction of the effects of restoration.
  • Model interpretation and simulation for management and public needs.
  • Peer-reviewed publications, web-based model output, and PC simulation models.
  • This study encompasses the critical projects for restoration of crocodilian populations determined by a meeting of over 30 biologists, managers, and administrators held in Homestead in November, 2002.

Key Findings:

  • We have been able to document the effects of canals and hydropattern on alligator production, movement, and body condition. This information has been incorporated into a population model that can be used for simulation of the effects of restoration including decompartmentalization.
  • We have produced, calibrated, and validated 2 simulation models that can be used to compare the restoration alternatives throughout the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.
  • We have developed a monitoring program for alligator populations that can be used to evaluate the effects of restoration throughout the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.

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