An Ecosystem-Level Study of Florida’s Major Spring Systems
   Robert Knight, Wetland Solutions, Inc.

Abstract: The primary objective of this work is the establishment of an ecological baseline for 12 of Florida’s principal springs, using quantitative and reproducible sampling methods. Key metrics of spring structure and function will be measured, allowing the first comprehensive comparison of springs’ ecology in over 50 years. An important secondary objective of this proposed work is an analysis of variability between the springs surveyed, with particular emphasis on the environmental factors that affect whole system productivity and support of fish and wildlife. This project will provide a quantitative basis for categorizing the wildlife habitat support functions of 12 public-owned springs in Florida for both common and endemic spring’s flora and fauna. Management options for springs can be based on a knowledge of the important forcing functions and factors which may be reducing the value of these ecosystems to flora and fauna, in turn, facilitating the adaptive management of these resources. This project will also provide information on changes that have occurred in a variety of springs over the past 50+ years and will serve as a baseline for comparison to future conditions. A holistic approach to quantify the relationship between ecosystem production and the standing stocks of flora and fauna will be utilized to provide a spring ecosystem characterization. A total of 12 springs/spring groups located on public lands will be synoptically sampled during the study period. These springs were selected to adequately represent the range of variation seen in the larger artesian springs in Florida. Initial project work will include the following: site reconnaissance and background data collection for each spring, selection of sampling locations in consultation with project partners, and permitting. Subsequently, springs will be sampled over a single continuous five-day period for the following parameters: (1) whole ecosystem metabolism (gross and net primary productivity [P], community respiration [R], P:R ratio, and photosynthetic efficiency) in a single, representative spring run segment, using the upstream-downstream dissolved oxygen change method for a continuous 72-hour period;(2) physical characteristics of the spring run segment including spring discharge, incident solar radiation, riparian canopy coverage; (3) water chemistry (temperature, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll a, chloride, color, and nutrients); (4) aquatic plant communities (species and percent cover estimates for macro-algae, macrophytes, algal mat thickness); (5) macroinvertebrate emergence rates; (6) visual counts of macrofauna (reptiles, fish, birds); (7) community downstream particulate export; and (8) observations of human uses, plant management, exotic species, etc.

Award Matching Funds Total
$25,000.00 $25,000.00 $50,000.00

Year Funded Starting Date Ending Date
2008 7/1/2008 5/15/2010

Location: Citrus, Columbia, Hernando, Holmes, Jackson, Levy, Madison, Marion, Volusia and Wakulla Counties