Mapping and Characterizing Aquatic Refugia in Everglades National Park and Loxahatchee Refuge
Aquatic refugia may be small ponds created by alligators termed alligator holes or may be the result of some other phenomena such as fire or peat-pop-up. As important as aquatic refugia are assumed to be in the Everglades landscape, their ecology has remained an almost completely unstudied phenomenon; despite the fact that one quantitative study of one alligator hole in the Big Cypress Swamp confirmed the general expectations of ecological importance of aquatic refugia. This gap in basic information concerning alligator holes such as, types, location, and number, is becoming critical. Modeling efforts such as Across Trophic Level Stimulation System (ATLSS) for fish and wading birds require the information from this study. ATLSS in particular is dependent on information on aquatic refugia. Information on aquatic refugia is also useful to field and modeling studies on fish, wading birds, and water quality currently underway. In fact, a study of aquatic refugia could be considered a linchpin holding together a number of studies analyzing South Florida ecosystems. Aquatic refugia are critically important in marl prairie/rocky glades habitats and their distribution and abundance is a specific performance measure for that system.
The objectives of the aquatic refugia project are to: map, classify, and analyze spatial patterns of aquatic refugia. Three tasks have been specifically designed to meet the goals of this project including: producing a map and associated GIS database for aquatic refugia in Everglades National Park and A.R.M. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, a classification system for aquatic refugia, and an analysis of their spatial pattern.