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Mapping Threats to Florida Freshwater Habitats

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CWCS) is an action plan for conserving the state's wildlife and natural areas. In 2005 the CWCS identified 27 threats to Florida's freshwater habitats. Creating a comprehensive database of threats is an essential step toward achieving the overall goals of improving strategic habitat conservation planning and addressing causes of low abundance and decline of species in aquatic habitats.

This project used a Geographic Information System (GIS) to assemble a statewide geographic collection of map-based data representing 15 of the 27 threats. GIS applications are map-based tools that allow users to create searches, analyze geographic information, and create and edit digital maps. The information collected regarding the 15 threats was used to determine the relative level of individual threats to each subwatershed (Hydrologic Unit Code [HUC] 12 unit) within Florida. A subwatershed is a smaller basin within a larger drainage area where all of the surface water drains to a common point of the larger watershed.

The map data layers and resulting composite indices show information across the entire state but are summarized at a subwatershed level. A map data layer consists of a single theme such as elevation or locations of waste treatment plants. Viewed together these data layers paint a picture and can be analyzed to examine relationships to help answer questions.

Therefore, it is possible to both discover regional patterns and also identify conditions at a more local level. Managers and researchers can use this threat information along with consideration of both the permanence of the threat and its impact on the five indicators of ecological integrity to begin further study into the issues affecting a particular freshwater ecosystem.

Based on the composite index map, a distinct trend of increasing threat level is evident progressing from northwest Florida to the east and south. At a regional scale, road density dominates as the most common reason for high threat values in northern Florida. Agriculture dominates in the west-central region and waterway modification dominates in east-central and southern Florida.

This multi-scale assessment is effective at both highlighting local conditions which may warrant further investigations and illustrating regional trends.

Download the Mapping Threats to Florida Freshwater Habitats and GIS data from the project. 

Contact us with comments or questions regarding the Freshwater Habitats Mapping projects.