Using Remote Sensing and GIS to Quantify Fish and Wildlife Habitat in Orange Lake, Florida

In 2005, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission implemented a team approach to guide holistic management of Orange Lake, Florida (5100ha). In 2007, 2010, and 2013, we evaluated the lakewide composition of aquatic plant communities and quantified their habitat benefits for focal fish and wildlife taxa. We found that habitat conditions in Orange Lake varied with changes in water level and all three years exhibited an excess of shrub swamp habitat (400-481 ha) and a shortage of shallow marsh habitat (65-160 ha). Overall habitat value for the group of focal taxa was greatest in 2010, coinciding with the highest coverage of deep marsh and submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV). More than half of the lake was ranked as having low overall habitat value in 2013, coinciding with the highest coverage of floating marsh and lowest coverage of SAV and open water. We identified 2364 ha of potential management area, where there is opportunity to improve habitat conditions for the greatest number of focal taxa. We demonstrated how habitat evaluations may be used to develop management objectives and to predict the effects of proposed management on habitat conditions for focal taxa.

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