Dry Season Prey Concentrations

Principal Investigator

This project collects baseline data on dry season prey trophic concentrations across the Florida Everglades ecosystem and is part of the ecosystem-wide monitoring being conducted through the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), Monitoring and Assessment Plan (MAP).

One uncertainty that the MAP aims to address is how wading birds will respond to changes in hydrologic conditions under CERP. It has been hypothesized that the collapse of wading bird nesting colonies in the southern Everglades can be attributed to declines in population densities and seasonal concentrations of marsh fishes and other aquatic prey organisms. Restoration of natural hydrologic conditions is predicted to re-establish distributions of prey densities and concentrations across the landscape that in turn will support the return of large, successful wading bird nesting colonies to the southern Everglades.

Recent evidence suggests that the amount of prey available to wading birds may be determined more by factors affecting the concentration of prey into small patches than by factors that produce large prey population sizes. This project will draw upon prior research conducted in the area and continue to provide a linkage among hydrologic fluctuations, fish populations, and wading bird populations.


Project Objectives:

  1. Collect field data to evaluate the spatial patterns of maximum aquatic fauna densities in the landscape.
  2. Use field data to evaluate inter-annual variation in maximum aquatic fauna densities.
  3. Assess possible correlates between maximum aquatic fauna densities and local site characteristics, hydrologic patterns, and regional aquatic fauna population size.
  4. Assess possible correlates between maximum aquatic fauna densities and wading bird foraging and nesting patterns. 
  5. Provide summary analysis of wading bird foraging and nesting patterns in response to aquatic fauna densities and hydrologic changes.


This project runs from January 2021 through March 2025.