South Florida ecosystems have undergone significant environmental change over the past century. A network of canals and ditches, built to control flooding and expand agriculture, crisscross much of the area, altering hydrology and fragmenting natural communities. Expanding urban areas line the coast. These landscape changes have created many natural resources management challenges. Water quantity and quality, invasive flora and fauna, and native habitat preservation and management are all serious issues for this area.
It is in the mission of Wildlands to understand the extent of these impacts in order to effectively conserve and manage native ecosystems. To that end, Wildlands is assisting the Seminole Tribe and its biologists in determining the nature and extent of herpetofaunal use of the Big Cypress and Brighton Reservations. The impetus for this project is to more completely understand the effects that invasive reptiles and amphibians (collectively known as “herpetofauna”) have on native herpetofauna in South Florida. To accomplish this, we are using a variety of survey methods aimed at determining presence/absence and relative abundance of both native and invasive herpetofauna. Results from these surveys will be used by Tribe biologists and managers to more effectively conserve their herpetofaunal resources by managing for characteristics/conditions that favor desirable species and control the expansion and population growth of undesirable species. These results are also designed to integrate with regional studies being conducted in Everglades National Park, Lake Okeechobee, and Big Cypress National Preserve to more broadly assess the impact of invasive herpetofauna in South Florida.