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Kissimmee River Restoration Wading Bird and Waterfowl Research

Success of the Kissimmee River Restoration Project is being evaluated in part by monitoring populations of wading birds (Pelecaniformes and Ciconiiformes) and waterfowl (Anseriformes). These two waterbird guilds were inte¬gral components of the pre-channelization river–floodplain ecosystem, and both declined substantially following channelization. Restoration is expected to attract wading birds and waterfowl by reintroducing naturally fluctuating water levels, seasonal hydroperiods, and historic vegetation communities.

Post-construction aerial surveys (November 2001 to current) within the Phase I restoration area indicate that the abundance and species richness of both wading birds and waterfowl have shown a positive restoration response thus far. Since completion of Phases I, IVA, and IVB of restoration construction in 2001, 2007, and 2009, respectively, annual abundance has ranged from 102.3 ± 31.7 birds/km2 to 11.0 ± 1.9 birds/km2 (mean (2001-2015)= 42.4 ± 6.8 birds/km2) (Figures 9 24). Mean monthly wading bird abundance within the restored portions of the river during the 2014–2015 breeding season was 57.9 ± 31.7 birds/km2, bringing the three-year (2013-2015) running average to 37.1 ± 10.5. The mean annual three-year running mean (2001-2015) is 41.7 ± 4.7 birds/km2, significantly greater than the expected value of 30.6 birds/km2 (one-sample t-test, p<0.04, SAS Version 9.3; Williams and Melvin, 2005a), although the individual three-year running means were not significantly different from the restoration target of 30.6 birds/km² when examined on an annual basis (one-sample t-test, SAS Version 9.3). Abundance of the terrestrial cattle egret (Bubul-cus ibis), which increased dramatically after the majority of floodplain wetlands were converted to cattle pastures in the channelized system, has shown a significant negative response to restoration.

Figure 9-24

Figure 9-24. Post-restoration abundance as three-year running averages ± S.E. of long-legged wading birds per square kilometer (birds/km2) excluding cattle egrets during the dry season (December–May) within the Phase I, IVA, and IVB restoration areas of the Kissimmee River. Each three-year running mean was not significantly different from the restoration target of 30.6 birds/km² examined on an annual basis, TTEST, SAS Institute 2011.

It is anticipated that completion of the remaining phases of restoration (II/III), and implemen­tation of the Kissimmee River Headwaters Revitalization water regulation schedule by 2019, will further increase and improve habitat for wading birds and waterfowl by reestablishing floodplain hydrology that more closely mim­ics historical conditions.

 Last Modified 4/3/23