Joint Ecosystem Modeling: Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow Marl Prairie Indicator

Science Center Objects

Marl prairie is the most diverse freshwater vegetation community in the Greater Everglades and provides the only suitable habitat for the federally endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow (CSSS; Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis).

Marl Prairie - Greater Everglades

Marl Prairie - Greater Everglades

The Science Issue and Relevance: Joint Ecosystem Modeling (JEM), a partnership among federal and state agencies, universities, and other organizations, is a long-term project for developing ecological forecast models for Florida’s Greater Everglades ecosystem. Water managers and other decision-makers use ecological models to understand how competing restoration scenarios may impact species of concern and make more informed restoration decisions. JEM provides ecological model output tailored to specific management decisions. Marl prairie is the most diverse freshwater vegetation community in the Greater Everglades and provides the only suitable habitat for the federally endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow (CSSS; Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis). Part of the JEM suite of models, the CSSS Marl Prairie Indicator estimates habitat suitability for the sparrow in response to changing hydrology over time. The habitat suitability index uses return frequency of hydrologic metrics to compare existing and target conditions in marl prairie habitat. The CSSS Marl Prairie Indicator was developed in collaboration with Everglades National Park to assess hydrologic conditions from proposed restoration scenarios.

Marl Prairie Indicator simulates marl prairie response to changing hydrology

Marl Prairie Indicator simulates marl prairie response to changing hydrology

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: The Marl Prairie Indicator simulates marl prairie response to changing hydrology and compares this response to target hydrologic conditions. The software provides a graphical user interface (GUI) that makes running the model intuitive and straightforward for managers. Model inputs are daily hydrologic targets and CSSS subpopulation locations (provided). Model outputs are the suitability indicator scores for maximum continuous nesting dry days, discontinuous hydroperiod, average wet season water depth, average dry season water depth, and the arithmetic mean of these as an overall score of habitat suitability. Outputs are provided in NetCDF, CSV, and shapefile formats. The model is available at jem.gov.

Future Steps: The CSSS Marl Prairie Indicator is intended to be used for decision support by managers and other decision-makers when choosing among alternative restoration scenarios. The tool allows users to evaluate the potential response of marl prairie habitat to changes in hydrology. The derived spatially and temporally explicit hydrologic metrics allow the user to more closely examine the specific hydrologic influences on the overall habitat score and give managers a greater understanding of the spatial and temporal variability of hydrology in marl prairie habitats across the region.

Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow

Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow

(Credit: Stephanie Romanach, USGS.)

Related Project(s): Joint Ecosystem Modeling (JEM), CSSS Sparrow Helper