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Project Summary Sheet

U.S. Geological Survey, Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Science (PES) Initiative

Fiscal Year 2004 Study Summary Report

Study Title: Quantitative Sampling of Freshwater Fish Species within the Big Cypress National Preserve: A Long-Term Research Program to Evaluate the Ecological Effects of CERP. (Continuation of FY03 project entitled: Inventory of Freshwater Fish Species within the Big Cypress National Preserve, with emphasis on methods testing to design a long-term, aquatic-biota sampling program).
Study Start Date: 10/01/2003 Study End Date: 09/30/2006
Web Sites: http://sofia.usgs.gov/projects/aqancomm_dyn/
Location (Subregions, Counties, Park or Refuge): Big Cypress, Collier, Monroe, Big Cypress National Preserve
Funding Source: USGS's Greater Everglades Science Program (PES Initiative)
Principal Investigator(s): William F. Loftus (USGS), Jerome J. Lorenz (National Audubon Society)
Study Personnel: Greg Ellis (NAS), Marcus Zokan (NAS)
Supporting Organizations: NAS, NPS - Big Cypress
Associated / Linked Studies:

Overview & Objective(s): A major ecosystem of the South Florida area, the Big Cypress National Preserve (BICY) is poorly understood in biological terms. To be able to detect changes in fish and invertebrate communities in natural and artificial habitats resulting from CERP restoration projects, baseline data are needed before and after the restoration actions. Those data must be collected using the best methods and sampling design for the habitat. Fishes and aquatic invertebrates are important as prey for many predatory species, especially alligators and wading birds. The data collected here will examine the relationships of the animals with the hydrological regime. This study has several objectives, the foremost of which is to begin a program of aquatic study in BICY. Work will be performed in partnership with National Audubon Society (NAS) and clients from the National Park Service to design and implement a spatially explicit and temporally varied, quantitative sampling program for aquatic animals in BICY. This program will 1) determine the optimal sampling methods to collect community-level data for aquatic animals; 2) document the baseline distribution, composition, and habitat use by native and introduced fishes, and 3) provide ecological data for use in simulation models that will be used to plan and evaluate restoration actions. Presently, inappropriate data from the Everglades are used in the Swamp model.

Status: During the first two seasons of sampling, efforts focused on conducting a comprehensive inventory of the freshwater fish species present in the Swamp. The inventory ended in FY04 with production of the final report. Sixty-four species were identified as resident. Sampling was geographically robust and was conducted across a range of habitat types, including cypress forests, herbaceous prairies, hardwood swamps, marshes, ponds, and canals. Many sampling methods were utilized, particularly trapping and electrofishing, angling, cast netting, and visual surveys. Each technique was screened for eventual incorporation into a long-term, quantitative sampling program. Three locations, with 3 plots each, were selected in BICY to begin collecting baseline quantitative data, near L-28, at Bear Island, and at Raccoon Point. The L-28 site is expected to receive most impact from a CERP project, while the other two sites serve as controls. All are sampled with drop traps, drift-fence arrays, and occasional electrofishing five times per year. The first sample was taken in July 2004, but the Bear Island site was dry because of the late start to the wet season.

Recent Products: Quarterly and annual progress reports have been produced that included information gathered during the 2002-2004 field seasons. The most recent annual report included summaries of the field sampling, including a report on the fish inventory that included a comprehensive species list, a breakdown of species by habitat type, measures of relative abundance for native and exotic species, and maps of the spatial distribution of all species. The other section of the annual report was a sampling plan for quantitative monitoring of the ichthyofauna of BICY. It incorporated knowledge gained about the applicability of different sampling techniques to the varied habitats of the Preserve to enable us to detect changes in the fish community from baseline as a result of hydrologic alterations caused by CERP.

Planned Products: Journal manuscript on fish inventory results

Specific Relevance to Information Needs Identified in DOI's Science Plan in Support of Ecosystem Restoration, Preservation, and Protection in South Florida (DOI's Everglades Science Plan) [See Plan on SOFIA's Web site: http://sofia.usgs.gov/publications/reports/doi-science-plan/]: This study supports several of the projects listed in the DOI science plan for Southwest Florida by providing quantification of the ecological responses of the fish community to CERP-induced changes to hydrology within BICY (thereby linking this study to the agency mission of assisting in the management of DOI property). Sampling methods devised for use in these forested wetlands will also have application in sampling aquatic animals in other systems. The study will provide baseline data which then may be used to track responses by aquatic animals to changes in hydrology as a result of CERP projects that will influence BICY hydrology, including Water Decompartmentalization of WCA3 and sheetflow enhancement (p. 68), the SW Florida Feasibility Study (p. 51-53), and the Southern Golden Gates Estates Hydrologic Restoration (p. 60). The baseline data are intended to provide ecological inputs for use in simulation models (e.g. ATLSS) that will be used to plan and evaluate restoration actions.

Key Findings:

  1. Established a baseline of fish-community composition for aquatic habitats in the Big Cypress system.
  2. Reported several new records for native and introduced fishes in the Swamp.
  3. Identified habitats likely to be affected by changes to the hydrologic regime during CERP projects.
  4. Selected several sampling techniques now being used to sample fish populations in those habitats

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