Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aquatic Plant Species Domination - Collaborative Research Using BioBase

Contour Innovations is proud to announce a collaboration among aquatic industry leaders to better understand aquatic species domination and lake ecosystem changes over time.


FIGURE: Left map: sampling points where Eurasian watermilfoil was present (yellow) and absent (X) during a survey on Gibbs Lake, Rock Co. WI (77 acres) in summer 2012.  Points are overlain on a vegetation biovolume “heat” map from passively collected sonar data and processed by ciBioBase.  Red colors represent vegetation that is growing near the surface.  Right map: Eurasian watermilfoil “Dominance” map rendered from both species survey and biovolume data.  Areas that are yellow and red areas where Eurasian watermilfoil is dominating the plant community and growing near or at the surface.

For over a decade, point-intercept survey methodology for aquatic plants has become a standard tool for lake resource managers and researchers.  The standard methodology entails sampling a uniform grid of points on a lake noting presence absence of species at each point with a rake. It is a relatively rapid way of objectively sampling aquatic plant species communities in a repeatable fashion.  However, the methodology’s primary downfall as a standalone method is its insensitivity to abundance of plants (i.e., 1 sampled sprig gets the same weight as a large bed at any one point).  Using passive collection of aquatic plant abundance with acoustics while conducting point-intercept surveys and simple GIS overlay methodology, we are demonstrating how species presence/absence layers can be combined with complementary biovolume (% of water column occupied by vegetation) data to form a more complete survey of both species AND abundance.  Further, using both species and abundance layers, we developed a ‘dominance’ index for each species sampled and demonstrate how dominance of any or all species can be used as an aquatic plant management or lake habitat monitoring tool.  Examples from Eurasian watermilfoil and Hydrilla infested lakes are used, as well as lakes with no known invasive species.   Future applications could utilize other environmental datasets (e.g., climate, land cover & use, water quality, etc.) to model the potential and realized outcome of a host of environmental stressors on the probability that invasive species will come to dominate a water body.

Aquatic biologist Ray Valley commented, "We're excited about where this research can take us.  Collaboration among experts throughout the US allows us to draw on a wide knowledge base and study ecosystems from a broad geographic range.  As this historical centralized dataset grows over the coming years, continued collaboration will help us understand and forecast true patterns in dominance and ecosystem effects of invasive species introduction."

If you have interest in participating in this collaboration or have suggestions, please contact Ray Valley at RayV@ContourInnovations.com

Participating Groups Currently Include:

Contour Innovations LLC, Minneapolis MN
University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, Gainesville, FL
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Science Services, Madison, WI
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Research Unit
North Carolina State University, Department of Crop Science, Raleigh NC


We'll keep you updated along the way!  Centralization is powerful stuff when it comes to aquatic plant research!

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