Conservation

Water loss in the swamp

Our research team has detected a troubling trend
Photo: RJ Wiley
Conservation

Water loss in the swamp

Our research team has detected a troubling trend

Daily water level monitoring began at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in the late 1950s when there had been relatively few hydrologic alterations in our watershed. Agricultural and residential development have since come to dominate the watershed, and a 55-year-long monitoring record has detected substantial changes in the swamp’s hydrology.

Despite no change in rainfall, our research team found significant changes in dry season water levels. We saw no change in the timing or magnitude of peak wet season conditions or in the hydroperiods of upland habitats (hammock forests and pine forests) or wet prairies. However, we found that hydroperiods have decreased 41% in marshes, 27% in bald cypress, and 23% in pond habitats, with the most notable change occurring between the 1990s and 2000s. The frequency of dry down at Corkscrew’s Lettuce Lakes increased from 22% of years WY1960-1999 to 81% of years WY2000-2015, with the duration of dry down increasing 41%.

This finding has significant implications for the health of our native wetlands and wildlife, risk of wildfire throughout our region, and ultimately for the availability of clean drinking water for Southwest Florida residents.

Details on this finding and a discussion of possible causes and implications can be found in our research report (below).

Clem, SE & MJ Duever. 2018. Recent hydrologic change at Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Audubon Florida Research Report, 14 pp.

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