Integrated conceptual ecological model and habitat indices for the southwest Florida coastal wetlands

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Abstract

The coastal wetlands of southwest Florida that extend from Charlotte Harbor south to Cape Sable, containmore than 60,000 ha of mangroves and 22,177 ha of salt marsh. These coastal wetlands form a transitionzone between the freshwater and marine environments of the South Florida Coastal Marine Ecosystem(SFCME). The coastal wetlands provide diverse ecosystem services that are valued by society and thus areimportant to the economy of the state. Species from throughout the region spend part of their life cyclein the coastal wetlands, including many marine and coastal-dependent species, making this zone critical to the ecosystem health of the Everglades and the SFCME. However, the coastal wetlands are increas-ingly vulnerable due to rising sea level, changes in storm intensity and frequency, land use, and water management practices. They are at the boundary of the region covered by the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), and thus are impacted by both CERP and marine resource management deci-sions. An integrated conceptual ecological model (ICEM) for the southwest coastal wetlands of Floridawas developed that illustrates the linkages between drivers, pressures, ecological process, and ecosystemservices. Five ecological indicators are presented: (1) mangrove community structure and spatial extent;(2) waterbirds; (3) prey-base fish and macroinvertebrates; (4) crocodilians; and (5) periphyton. Most ofthese indicators are already used in other areas of south Florida and the SFCME, and therefore will allow metrics from the coastal wetlands to be used in system-wide assessments that incorporate the entire Greater Everglades Ecosystem.

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Wingard, G. L., & Lorenz, J. J. (2014). Integrated conceptual ecological model and habitat indices for the southwest Florida coastal wetlands. Ecological Indicators, 44, 92–107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2014.01.007

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