Submerged aquatic vegetation and bulrush in Lake Okeechobee as indicators of greater Everglades ecosystem restoration
Lake Okeechobee, Florida, located in the middle of the larger Kissimmee River-Lake Okeechobee-Everglades ecosystem in South Florida, serves a variety of ecosystem and water management functions including fish and wildlife habitat, flood control, water supply, and source water for environmental restoration. As a result, the ecological status of Lake Okeechobee plays a significant role in defining the overall success of the greater Everglades ecosystem restoration initiative. One of the major ecological indicators of Lake Okeechobee condition focuses on the near-shore and littoral zone regions as characterized by the distribution and abundance of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and giant bulrush (Scirpus californicus(C.A. Mey.) Steud.). The objective of this study is to present a stoplight restoration report card communication system, common to all 11 indicators noted in this special journal issue, as a means to convey the status of SAV and bulrush in Lake Okeechobee. The report card could be used by managers, policy makers, scientists and the public to effectively evaluate and distill information about the ecological status in South Florida. Our assessment of the areal distribution of SAV in Lake Okeechobee is based on a combination of empirical SAV monitoring and output from a SAV habitat suitability model. Bulrush status in the lake is related to a suitability index linked to adult survival and seedling establishment metrics. Overall, presentation of these performance metrics in a stoplight format enables an evaluation of how the status of two major components of Lake Okeechobee relates to the South Florida restoration program, and how the status of the lake influences restoration efforts in South Florida.
Harwell, M., B. Sharfstein. 2009. Submerged aquatic vegetation and bulrush in Lake Okeechobee as indicators of greater Everglades ecosystem restoration. Ecological Indicators 9(6): S46-S55.