5th UF Water Institute Symposium Abstract

Submitter's Name Mary Szafraniec
Session Name Springs II - Hydrography and Ecology
Author(s) Mary  Szafraniec,  Amec Foster Wheeler (Presenting Author)
  Margaret Guyette,  St. Johns River Water Management District
  Evaluating Ecological Drivers and Interactions in Florida Springs
  Florida springs and spring runs are highly productive, societally and ecologically valuable ecosystems. In many springs, submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) dominate the benthic community and are critical in their role in trophodynamics, biogeochemical cycling, stability of substrates, and are indicators of overall stream health and resilience. An ecological shift has been documented in several spring ecosystems, where macrophyte-dominated communities are declining and algal communities are proliferating. Due to the broad-scale shifts that have occurred in aquatic autotroph composition and abundance that has led to the proliferation of nuisance algae (i.e. benthic macroalgae, epiphytic algae), greater attention has been drawn to the changing condition of springs. These shifts in primary producer community structure (PPCS) has fueled an impetus towards further investigation of the multi-causal interactions of drivers leading to changes in autotrophic assemblages. In this work, Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure, Inc. (Amec Foster Wheeler) assisted the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) with developing a baseline set of biological, physicochemical and hydrological conditions in 14 spring systems (26 transects) with the overall objective of gaining a better understanding of the multi-causal interactions of natural and anthropogenic drivers leading to changes in ecological health and stability of Florida springs. This synoptic biological monitoring project covered a broad range of spring system types across North and Central Florida to capture the variability of physicochemical parameters, SAV, benthic macroalgae, epiphytic algae, and macroinvertebrate communities. Project objectives were consistent with the SJRWMD’s Springs Protection Initiative, which included developing a baseline set of biological community composition (i.e. abundance and biomass), physiology, and distribution data that can be used to assess current ecological conditions to compare to historical and future conditions in spring ecosystems. The broad range of springs selected for this study should allow the District to determine the generality, or specificity, of abiotic-biotic empirical relationships such as those that exist between water chemistry, hydrology and biota, which will indefinitely improve the District’s science-based water management decisions.