Scientific studies on the hydrology, water quality, exotics management, fire management, and natural resource management are conducted by scientist at the A.R.M. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. These studies generally fall into one or more of four categories: inventories, monitoring, research, and compliance. The information gathered helps the Refuge make better management decisions.
Turkey Vulture. Photo from SOFIA Loxahatchee Gallery.
Inventories provide information on the presence, relative abundance, and/or distribution of species using accepted biological methods. Having an idea of what species are present in the various habitats is important to identify refuge resources, as well as to allow visitors to know what animals and plants they may see in different areas. Examples of ongoing inventory efforts include identifying the species composition found on tree islands, impoundments, and surveying for migratory birds.
Refuge Ranger sampling at a water quality site.
Monitoring provides information on how wildlife and habitat change over time. Monitoring can show whether the objectives of a management action have been achieved. For example, an increase in the number of birds observed on a tree island after the island has been treated for exotic plants provides an indication that the restoration goals are being achieved. Monitoring also allows us to gather information on the natural fluctuations in animal and plant numbers, as well as communities. Monitoring efforts on the refuge include, but are not limited to, monitoring the quality of water entering the refuge, conducting alligator surveys in the marsh and canals, identifying the spread and control efforts of invasive exotic plants, and conducting wading bird nesting surveys.
Researchers performing velocity study in LILA.
Research and monitoring are strongly linked. Monitoring can be a part of research which is a systematic investigation into a particular subject in order to discover facts or principles related to the subject. Research can help identify relationships between species and habitats and can help to identify reasons why change occurs. Current research projects conducted on the refuge include examining the impacts of fire on tree islands that are heavily infested with Old World climbing fern, identifying prey availability for wading birds, and identifying the best treatment effort available to combat the spread of invasive exotic plants
Everglades restoration is an enormous effort now moving forward through many projects incorporated under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The framework of restoration is built on the assessment and interpretation of performance measures as individual project components unfold. The Loxahatchee Impoundment Landscape Assessment (LILA) project is located at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and is assisting in the development of performance measures for the restoration effort. LILA Splash
Refuge Compliance Assessment
Red shows areas threatening quality of the Refuge.
Teams are the name of the Everglades restoration game. And the the DOI Everglades Program Team (EPT) is one of those teams. Some of the best scientists in the nation are working in cooperation to tackle what is known as the grandest ecological restoration effort in the history of the world -- the Florida Everglades Restoration. One important component of restoration involves water quality. The 1988 Everglades water quality lawsuit was settled in 1992 with a Consent Decree filed in federal court. The State of Florida, through the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), is to comply with the terms of the Consent Decree, which includes the implementation of best management practices to reduce nutrient runoff from agricultural lands (mostly sugarcane and vegetable production) south of Lake Okeechobee, and the construction of Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) to reduce interim phosphorous concentrations in the remaining runoff to less than 50 parts per billion (ppb). Phosphorous is the nutrient of greatest concern and the State of Florida has set a final numeric water quality criterion for phosphorus in the Everglades of 10 ppb total phosphorus. This translates into into inflow concentrations around 17 ppb. Compliance became legally mandatory in December 2006 and the EPT is one team responsible for attempting to understand why these levels are exceeded and pursuing litigation when SFWMD fails to remain below these levels for more than two months within any consecutive 12- month period.