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publications > reports > inventory of freshwater fishes of the big cypress national preserve > executive summary

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Executive Summary

During the past two years, we have conducted field sampling to inventory the freshwater fishes of the Big Cypress National Preserve (BCNP), in accordance with the National Park Service's Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Program. We sampled 456 sites in BCNP between October 2002 and June 2004. Samples were collected across a range of forested and herbaceous wetland habitats, including cypress forests, mixed-hardwood swamp forests, cypress prairies, herbaceous prairies, freshwater and coastal marshes, and canals. Samples were taken using a variety of methods, including traps, gill nets, cast nets, dip nets, angling, and electrofishing. Trapping and electrofishing proved to be the most effective techniques, and we used them most widely.

Nine of the 64 fish species we documented in freshwater habitats in BCNP were non-indigenous: oscar (Astronotus ocellatus), pike killifish (Belonesox belizanus), black acara (Cichlasoma bimaculatum), Mayan cichlid (Cichlasoma urophthalmus), walking catfish (Clarias batrachus), jewel cichlid (Hemichromis letourneauxi), brown hoplo (Hoplosternum littorale), blue tilapia (Oreochromis aureus), and spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae). This study is the first to document Hemichromis and Hoplosternum in the preserve.

Canals supported the greatest diversity of species, with 62 of the 64 species taken from this habitat. Many of the canal dwellers were either euryhaline species moving inland from the Gulf of Mexico, or were large, freshwater species ill-suited to seasonal wetland habitats. Because of their connections to the estuaries, coastal marshes also supported a number of euryhaline fishes. The freshwater wetland habitats shared similar fish fauna; nearly half of the 33 species found in these wetland habitats were found in all of them.

Based on data from our sampling, in combination with literature records for fish species in BCNP, we estimate that we surpassed the NPS I&M goal of documenting 90 percent of the freshwater fish species in the preserve. Our estimate of 67 species includes records for several species reported from Big Cypress by previous researchers. These include diamond killifish (Adinia xenica), chain pickerel (Esox niger), naked goby (Gobiosoma bosc), and channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). These were not captured in this project, however, because of their rarity within BCNP. Maps of the sampling sites and the distributions of the fish species are provided in the report appendixes.

NPS funding for the inventory work ceased at the end of 04. This project is now being funded through the CERP MAP (Monitoring and Assessment Program) to the National Audubon Society and USGS, which will jointly conduct sampling five times per year. We present preliminary results of the inventory in this report.

In May 2004, we began a long-term research project on fish populations in three areas of BCNP to acquire baseline information to evaluate hydrologic modifications proposed as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The work commenced after delays in funding, and was supported by the USGS Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Science (PES) Program. We began by testing a variety of sampling methods intended for use in the sampling study, and set up a network of quantitative sampling devices in three regions of BCNP. (We present results from sampling conducted in July 2004 in this report.) By FY 05, PES funding for the work was redirected to a new study of BCNP fishes.


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