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U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
OFR 2006-1240

Vegetation Classification for South Florida Natural Areas

By Rutchey, K.*,1, T.N. Schall1, R.F. Doren2, A. Atkinson3, M.S. Ross2, D.T. Jones2, M. Madden4, L. Vilchek5, K.A. Bradley6, J.R. Snyder7, J.N. Burch8, T. Pernas9, B. Witcher3, M. Pyne10, R. White10, T.J. Smith III11, J. Sadle8, C.S. Smith12, M.E. Patterson3 and G.D. Gann6

*Corresponding author: Email: Krutchey@sfwmd.gov Tel #: 561 682-6618

1 South Florida Water Management District, 3301 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach, Florida 33412

2 Florida International University, Southeast Environmental Research Center, University Park, OE-148, Miami, Florida 33199

3 U.S. National Park Service – South Florida & Caribbean Inventory and Monitoring Network, 18001 Old Cutler Road, Suite 419, Palmetto Bay, Florida 33157

4 University of Georgia, Center for Remote Sensing and Mapping Services, Department of Geography, Athens, Georgia 30602

5 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Florida Ecological Services Office, 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, Florida 32960

6 The Institute for Regional Conservation, 22601 S.W. 152nd Avenue, Miami, Florida 33170

7 U.S. Geological Survey, Florida Integrated Science Center, Big Cypress Field Station, 33100 Tamiami Trail, East, Ochopee, Florida 34141

8 U.S. National Park Service, Big Cypress National Preserve, 33100 Tamiami Trail, East, Ochopee, Florida 34141

9 U.S. National Park Service – Exotic Plant Management Team, 18001 Old Cutler Road, Suite 419, Palmetto Bay, Florida 33157

10 NatureServe, 1101 Wilson Boulevard, 15th Floor, Arlington, Virginia 22209

11 U.S. Geological Survey, Florida Integrated Science Center, 600 Fourth Street, South, Saint Petersburg, Florida 33701

12 U.S. National Park Service, Everglades National Park, 40001 State Road 9336, Homestead, Florida 33034


Primary Classifications
Literature Cited
Figure & Table List
PDF Version
A critical component of any ecological restoration program is documenting the temporal changes in the spatial extent, pattern, and proportion of plant communities within the landscape. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP - www.evergladesplan.org), authorized as part of the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) of 2000 (U.S. Congress, 2000), is an $8 billion hydrologic restoration project for all of south Florida. CERP includes 68 separate projects to be managed over the next 30 years by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), and other State and Federal agencies. Restoration Coordination and Verification (RECOVER) is a system-wide program of the CERP, designed to organize, manage, and provide the highest quality scientific and technical support during implementation of the restoration program (RECOVER, in prep.). It is the role of RECOVER to develop and implement a system-wide Monitoring and Assessment Plan (MAP) (RECOVER, 2004) and to document how well the CERP is meeting its objectives for ecosystem restoration. One critical component of the MAP is vegetation mapping to document changes in the spatial extent, pattern, and proportion of plant communities within the Everglades landscape.

A major aspect of the vegetation mapping project was determining a classification system for labeling vegetation categories utilizing a grid method. The grid method was created specifically for use in the CERP RECOVER vegetation monitoring and assessment project (Rutchey and others, in prep.). The CERP RECOVER vegetation mapping project utilizes aerial photography and photointerpretation techniques (with ground truthing) to identify and label vegetation classes. A classification system that had sufficient flexibility and detail to enable the designation of vegetation classes using various remote sensing platforms and identification techniques needed to be developed. The classification system had to be hierarchical, represent distinct ecological communities, individual species, and physical characteristics such as density and height. In addition, it was desirable to have a classification system that allowed exotic species and cattail to be identified using density classes.

satellite image of southern Florida showing location of major natural areas mentioned in this report
Figure 1. This satellite view of far southern Florida shows the region for which the vegetation classification was developed. Overlain are the approximate boundaries for state and federal conservation lands. [larger image]
The classification system was developed specifically for peninsular south Florida and the Florida Keys, from Lake Okeechobee in the north to Key West in the south (Figure 1). Specific areas of interest include Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, the State of Florida Water Conservation Areas, Holeyland Wildlife Management Area, Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area, J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area, Pal-Mar Wildlife Management Area, the Lake Okeechobee Littoral Zones, and additional coastal wetlands of south eastern Miami-Dade County. In addition to being used for mapping of CERP affected areas, the National Park Service-South Florida/Caribbean Network is using the classification for mapping the remaining areas of Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve outside the CERP footprint, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Biscayne National Park, and Dry Tortugas National Park.

Background >

Prepared in cooperation with the: South Florida Water Management District, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida International University, University of Georgia, Institute for Regional Conservation, and NatureServe

U.S. Department of the Interior
Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary

U.S. Geological Survey
P. Patrick Leahy, Acting Director

U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia 2006

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Suggested citation:
Rutchey, K., T.N. Schall, R.F. Doren, A. Atkinson, M.S. Ross, D.T. Jones, M. madden, L. Vilchek, K.A. Bradley, J.R. Snyder, J.N. Burch, T. Pernas, B. Witcher, M. Pyne, R. White, T.J. Smith III, J. Sadle, C.S. Smith, M.E. Patterson, and G.D. Gann, 2006, Vegetation Classification for South Florida Natural Areas: Saint Petersburg, Fl, United States Geological Survey, Open-File Report 2006-1240. 142 p.

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Abbreviations and Acronyms

BICY     Big Cypress National Preserve

BISC     Biscayne National Park

EVER     Everglades National Park

IRC     The Institute for Regional Conservation

NWR     National Wildlife Refuge

SFWMD     South Florida Water Management District

WCA     Water Conservation Area

WMA     Wildlife Management Area

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Last updated: 04 September, 2013 @ 02:03 PM (KP)