Headwater Streams of Florida: Types, Distribution and a Framework for Conservation

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Florida, Headwater streams, Perennial, Stream conservation and management, Temporary

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Using geographic information system and topographic maps, 5829 headwater streams in Florida were surveyed for several parameters including elevation, stream length, flow regime and surrounding geology, and vegetation. Each was assigned to one of four headwater types: wetland, seep, lake, and spring. Wetland headwaters were the most common and widespread followed by seeps, many displaying temporary flow, while springs were perennial and least numerous. Four groups of Florida rivers were identified through cluster analysis of drainage densities (number headwaters/km of river length). Group 1 consisted of six rivers with lowest drainage densities (0.30-1.39 streams/km main channel). All were coastal rivers of peninsular Florida and, with one exception, drain to the Gulf of Mexico. Seven of eight rivers (group 2) with intermediate drainage densities (1.77-3.04 streams/km main channel) were located in peninsular Florida. Only three of 12 rivers comprising the two groups (groups 3 and 4) with greatest drainage densities (5.16-9.37 and 15.49-16.96 streams/km main channel) were not located in the Florida panhandle. Stream conservation efforts should focus on both highly complex dendritic river networks of the panhandle and on the 7000km2 area in central Florida mostly lacking headwaters that may become a significant dispersal bottleneck for aquatic biota seeking refugia farther north from projected climate change.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

River Research and Applications, v. 32, issue 3, p. 452-461