Invasive exotic plant indicators for ecosystem restoration: An example from the Everglades restoration program
We have developed a comprehensive ecological indicator for invasive exotic plants, a human-influenced component of the Everglades that could threaten the success of the restoration initiative. Following development of a conceptual ecological model for invasive exotic species, presented as a companion paper in this special issue, we developed criteria to evaluate existing invasive exotic monitoring programs for use in developing invasive exotic performance measures. We then used data from the selected monitoring programs to define specific performance measures, using species presence and abundance as the basis of the indicator for invasive exotic plants. We then developed a series of questions used to evaluate region and/or individual species status with respect to invasion. Finally, we used an expert panel who had answered the questions for invasive exotic plants in the Everglades Lake Okeechobee model to develop a stoplight restoration report card to communicate invasive exotic plant status. The report card system provides a way to effectively evaluate and present indicator data to managers, policy makers, and the public using a uniform format among indicators. Collectively, the model, monitoring assessment, performance measures, and report card enable us to evaluate how invasive plants are impacting the restoration program and how effectively that impact is being managed. Applied through time, our approach also allows us to follow the progress of management actions to control the spread and reduce the impacts of invasive species and can be easily applied and adapted to other large-scale ecosystem projects.
Doren, R.F., J.C. Volin, J.H. Richards. 2009. Invasive exotic plant indicators for ecosystem restoration: An example from the Everglades restoration program. Ecological Indicators 9(6): S29-S36.