|Matanzas River Basin Biodiversity Initiative*|
*Formerly called the Matanzas River Basin Biological Inventory
José Núñez and Michael J. Greenberg, Ph.D.
The Whitney Laboratory is located within a remarkable ecosystem - the Matanzas River Basin (MRB) - and an effort to create a comprehensive inventory of its biological resources has begun. The Basin comprises about 120,000 acres of the southernmost section of the Matanzas River estuary (a.k.a., the Intracoastal Waterway), including the estuary itself, and its associated marshes, wetlands, uplands, and beaches. Three relatively pristine creeks - Pellicer, Moses, and Moultrie - supply fresh water to the estuary, and its seawater supply enters through the historic Matanzas Inlet - the last undisturbed inlet on the east coast of Florida. Beyond the exceptional quality of its waters, the percentage of privately developed land in the Basin is low, and public funds have been spent generously to purchase land for conservation, recreation, parks, and important scientific facilities - like the Whitney Lab. Therefore, on the advice of the St. Johns River Water Management District, the MRB is proceeding toward designation - by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection - as having Outstanding Florida Water.
In 2008, encouraged by this process and by community support, José Núñez and Mike Greenberg began to edit and add to the Laboratory's outdated and limited species list. The revised inventory, published online, will include most of the plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms distributed among the various habitats in the MRB. Each organism will be identified on the basis of its anatomy and selected genes. Because the MRB has such high biodiversity, information about any species is scattered, but in the new inventory, this material will be aggregated and made accessible in one place - a terrific boon to researchers and to governmental policy makers and planners and the public.
The species list will be organized phylogenetically, as is usual. But to emphasize ecological relationships, the list will also be accessible through easily recognized habitats. During 2009, Núñez developed such an alternative approach: a high-resolution, 360-degree panoramic guided tour. Visitors to the inventory web pages will be able to travel virtually to the Basin, explore selected habitats, and be introduced to the organisms living in them. Finally, the visitor will be able to access the relevant information about each organism in the species list. And because the balance among species interactions is critical for habitat maintenance, it also will be described, as appropriate, in the species list. This website is under construction and will be developed as time and funding allows.
Since habitats and their community diversity change with seasonal, climatic, and other natural and anthropogenic disturbances, the inventory must be reviewed and edited indefinitely. This long-term effort will be carried out, in part, by local volunteers of all backgrounds and ages; but a primary goal is to use service-learning projects to engage high school students in the inventory and, thereby, in the biodiversity, ecology and conservation of the Basin.
See the Species List so far.
More to come….
Thank you to our sponsors for making this project possible:
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