Ecology and Management of Wildlife in the Everglades Agricultural Area
Everglades wetlands have decreased in size and quality since the implementation of flood control projects that began more than a century ago. Drainage, flood control and water supply protection have resulted in development of South Florida for urban and agricultural uses. Over 600,000 acres of wetlands southeast of Lake Okeechobee were established as the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), by the Central and South Florida Flood Control Project.
Everglades wetlands not lost to development have been degraded by hydrological disruptions and invasion by non-native species. Wildlife populations dependent upon naturally functioning wetlands have declined, some to the point of becoming endangered. The diminished ecological condition of the Greater Everglades/South Florida ecosystem has produced the largest cooperative effort at ecosystem restoration ever undertaken.
The combination of a decline in Everglades' habitats and an increase in artificial habitats has had interesting results. Some opportunistic species have started to use artificial habitats, especially those in agricultural landscapes. For example, retention ponds in citrus groves harbor endangered snail kites; marsh rabbits inhabit sugarcane fields, attracting hawks and owls; and rice fields attract a variety of water birds including wading birds, waterfowl, shorebirds, and prey items.
However, few studies have quantified wildlife use of agricultural fields and none have related habitat conditions or agricultural management practices to diversity or abundance of wildlife. Hence, there are no data available to develop management practices for wildlife in agricultural fields, and no information available to increase the understanding of wildlife in the EAA by decision makers, the conservation community, or the general public.
The objectives of this project are to: 1) Determine habitat relations of wildlife in the EAA; 2) Evaluate effects of selected agricultural practices on wildlife populations, for example: a) flooding vs. fallow summer fields, b) impacts of fire on reptiles and small mammals in cane fields, c) aquatic prey populations and drawdowns in rice fields, d) impacts of canal and ditch management on aquatic organisms, e) exposure of wildlife to contaminants; 3) Develop an education program for growers, restoration officials, conservationists, and the general public as to the role the EAA plays in conserving biological diversity of Greater Everglades/South Florida wildlife.
Elise V. Pearlstine, Project Coordinator; Wendy M. Bear, Wildlife Research Assistant; Michelle L. Casler, Wildlife Research Assistant
2002-2004 Final Report (1.21MB PDF)
2003 Annual Report (1.6MB PDF)
Anurans of the Everglades Agricultural Area, Circular 1463/UW210
Birds of the Everglades Agricultural Area, Circular 1444/UW179
Snakes of the Everglades Agricultural Area, Circular 1462/UW211