Audubon Florida released a report breaking down how our water and wildlife did during the summer months, with much to say on the progress of Everglades restoration.
In the quiet sanctuary of Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp, you can find everything from whistling ducks and sunbathing gators to roseate spoonbills, all creatures dependent on a healthy Everglades system.
“It’s incredibly important to keep track of the Everglades system because the water is so important,” said Lisa Korte, director of Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp sanctuary.
In Audubon Florida’s semi-annual “State of the Slough” report, researchers set their sights on the Taylor Slough wetland and Florida Bay, east of Corkscrew Swamp. The data gives water managers a snapshot of how the ecosystem fares during weather events.
“We want to have as many healthy ecosystems out there as possible,” Korte said. “We’re all interconnected.”
Audubon’s Everglades Science Center team learned that more salinity earlier this year cut down aquatic plant diversity in Taylor Slough. But a rising sea level is another factor.
“It could be as simple a thing as ‘it just didn’t rain,’ because we have to remember it is a natural system,” said Alexander Blochel, senior biologist with Audubon Florida’s Science Center. “Submerged aquatic vegetation has kind of changed drastically due to this, which means that there’s a lower biodiversity, which in itself is kind of sad.”
Rising waters also impact the roseate spoonbills.
“The water levels are going up, which means that it makes it a little bit harder for the spoonbills to forage,” Blochel said.
This glimpse into the health of this ecosystem will be an important part of pushing for further Everglades restoration. The Everglades Science Center team caught 341 fish in Taylor Slough this year and low-salinity fish species dominated their samples, which the team says is a promising start.