The Statewide Habitat Reporting System 2010 report is now available!
Download the report.

Project Update

Monitoring is an essential component of adaptive management, allowing us to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation actions and demonstrate success. One goal of Florida's Wildlife Legacy Initiative is to develop a coordinated, statewide habitat monitoring system for tracking the health of our six priority habitats (sandhill, scrub, softwater streams, springs, coral reefs, and seagrass). Existing FWC and partner programs already monitor these habitats, but not in a coordinated manner statewide. We have built upon these efforts to form a shared system for collectively analyzing and reporting monitoring information.

The 2010 SHRS report presents a statewide view of the overall condition of our six priority habitats based on data compiled from existing monitoring programs. It also identifies monitoring data gaps and makes recommendations for improving statewide monitoring of these habitats. The SHRS was developed in cooperation with more than 100 experts representing many conservation partners around the state, who identified key indicators for each habitat and contributed data from existing monitoring programs to build the report. This Statewide Habitat Reporting System (SHRS) will continue to be improved and expanded as new data and new monitoring sources become available. Additional habitats will be added over time.

This project identifies many gaps in our current ability to accurately assess the status and trends of these habitats. Most data sources compiled for the report have limitations affecting our ability to draw strong conclusions about the status and trends of habitats at a statewide level. Complete statewide monitoring data are not available for any habitat. Even relatively well-known habitats like sandhill and scrub have significant monitoring data gaps.

This project demonstrates the great value and potential of many of Florida's current habitat monitoring programs, and the importance of maintaining and expanding these programs. The results presented use the best available data and are a valid, if limited, resource for state-level planning and prioritization and for tracking changes over time, when interpreted in context. For many indicators, data limitations are expected to decrease with time as monitoring continues and is expanded to cover greater proportions of the habitats.

The Challenge

The Statewide Habitat Reporting System is a work in progress that will improve as monitoring programs continue, expand and are developed to better meet long-term, statewide monitoring needs. Some indicators will require monitoring program revisions or additions before complete, statewide reporting is possible. In other cases, existing monitoring programs likely already provide sufficient information for statewide reporting, and the challenge is simply in overcoming discrepancies in how these data are collected and reported, and in finding ways to share these data in an efficient and effective manner. FWLI will continue to work with partners to support and improve our collective ability to understand the condition of key habitats and to track changes in habitats over time.

Habitat and species monitoring are becoming increasingly crucial as we seek to understand and adapt to the effects of a changing climate. Florida already has many well-established monitoring programs that are providing quality, essential information on the status and trends of many habitats. However, there are still many challenges to be overcome before a complete picture of the condition of Florida's habitats can be drawn.

The success of this project is due to the contributions of many partners willing to share their time, expertise, data and resources to ensure that this tool will be a valuable resource with the flexibility to meet many needs.

For more information, please contact Caroline Gorga.

From the Action Plan

Habitat Monitoring

Public agencies and private entities involved in managing conservation lands currently utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) systems to monitor land use and habitat types or land cover on areas they manage. Use of the GIS systems makes it possible to more effectively plan management actions and monitor changes to habitats at the landscape scale throughout the state and at regional and local scales as well. One conservation goal for Florida's State Wildlife Action Plan (Action Plan) will be to continue and expand use of these GIS systems to monitor habitats and more effectively and efficiently coordinate and integrate conservation actions at the landscape level and other levels, whenever appropriate.

Conservation actions undertaken through programs such as Florida Forever(FDEP), Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI), and the Strategic Habitat Conservation Areas (SHCAs) help to ensure that high priority lands throughout Florida are conserved wherever possible (See Chapter State of the State). Through these programs, important natural areas can be conserved by direct land acquisitions, acquisition of conservation easements, and incentives and cost shares for conservation on private lands. Programs such as these have proven to be successful in the past and will continue to play an important role in the conservation of Florida's wildlife and their habitats as Florida implements this Action Plan. The FWC can measure the relative increase in habitat conservation addressed in the Action Plan by assessing the percentage of lands protected; if the percentage increases, that can demonstrate successful implementation of the Action Plan. Ultimately, targets for evaluating success should be set, with conservation priorities for habitats identified and finalized. Use of these performance measures and targets will make it possible to produce reasonably accurate quantitative assessments of habitat conservation, in terms of preservation or loss.

In addition to monitoring areas of habitats that are conserved, it is important to monitor habitat conditions and the quality of those habitats. This monitoring need is addressed in conservation actions throughout the Action Plan. The goal for these actions will be to ensure that suitable habitat management techniques are employed to maintain appropriate habitat quality. Currently, no statewide habitat quality performance measures exist, but work is underway on developing and testing schemes such as the FWC's Objective-Based Vegetation Management system (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 2004) and public (FDEP) and private efforts to monitor success in burning of fire-dependent landscapes.

A further subject for habitat monitoring will be to evaluate conservation actions addressing the issue of habitat conversion. Again, GIS is used for these actions to monitor habitat conversion at the landscape scale. The 2003 Florida Vegetation and Land Cover GIS Data, which was developed by the FWC (Stys et al. 2004), is the most comprehensive statewide assessment of current land covers and habitat conditions; this GIS coverage is based upon 2003 Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper satellite imagery (Stys et al. 2004). These GIS data, when combined with appropriate ground truthing, provide a useful tool by which to monitor relatively small-scale changes in habitat condition (land cover) that result from habitat conversion. The quantitative nature of GIS makes it possible to  measure amounts of land converted from one habitat type to another. Decreasing conversion rates of key habitats will be indicative of successful implementation of conservation actions. Although currently not available, similar mapping efforts can be developed for freshwater and marine habitats.

FWC Facts:
Healthy lakes with vibrant fisheries enhance property values & development potential and justify the need for sustainable development practices to protect them into the future.

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