Impacts of Off-Road Vehicle Use on Wildlife in the Prairie Ecosystems of Big Cypress National Preserve


Off-road vehicles (ORV) impact habitat through displacement of soil, direct damage to vegetation, and spread of invasive species. Also, effects on highly studied species such as the Florida panther have been noted. However, more subtle habitat effects due to increased water flow rates and, thus shorter hydroperiods and depths on suites of wildlife species have not been examined except at the local level. Studies have shown that that ORV ruts and airboat trails can accelerate water flow. Furthermore, habitat alteration through change to water quality via suspension of soil particles certainly can effect aquatic fauna populations. Measures of biodiversity have long been used to examine the effects of altered habitat quality on wildlife populations. New quantitative methods allow us to not only estimate diversity through measures of species richness but to obtain estimates of variability and habitat occupancy rates of various species assemblages. A comprehensive GIS assessment of actual and potential impacts will result from this project. Objectives of this project include: 1) Develop GIS tools that synthesize existing information on vegetation, off-road vehicle (ORV) use, hydrology, and selected species habitats for use in evaluating restoration and management success; 2) Examine the impacts of ORV use on the biodiversity of wildlife populations in Big Cypress National Preserve through filed studies of selected wildlife groups; 3) Using the spatial databases, identify wildlife habitats and areas sensitive to ORV use and hydrological restoration, identify potential areas of concern, and analyze spatial patterns of habitat, biodiversity, and ORV use.

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.

Related Publications


Impacts of Off-Road Vehicle Use and Hydrology on Wildlife in the Prairie Ecosystem of Big Cypress National Preserve

Threats to Amphibian Populations of South Florida


Waddle, J. Hardin, Kenneth G. Rice, and Frank J. Mazzotti. (2004 May). The effect of off-road vehicle use on the distribution of amphibian species in Big Cypress National Preserve. Talk presented at the 2004 Joint Meeting of Icthyologists and Herpetologists, Norman, OK.


Final Report 2005 (PDF)


Jeffery, Brian M., J. Hardin Waddle, and Andrew J. Maskell. 2004. Hyla Cinerea. Predation. Herpetological Review 35:158.

Maskell, Andrew J., J. Hardin Waddle, and Kenneth G. Rice. 2003. Osteopilus septentrionalis. Diet. Herpetological Review 34:137.

EDIS Publications

A Scientific Framework for Managing Urban Natural Areas, SSWEC74/UW112

Use of Amphibians as Indicators of Ecosystem Restoration Success, Circular 1484/UW233

Uso de Anfibios como Indicadores del Exito de la Restauracion de Ecosistemas, UW236