We illustrate the importance of subsurface refuges for conservation of aquatic fauna with our studies of karstic wetlands in Everglades National Park, Florida, USA. Managers have proposed that water levels there should not fall more than 46 cm below ground level for more than 90 days annually. In four areas, 84% of solution holes were less than 46 cm deep and holes deeper than lm were rare (<3 km-2). Null-model analysis indicated no "structure" in the solution-hole fish communities early in the dry season, but that structure emerged as drying progressed. Native cyprinodontiforms were abundant in shallow solution holes that dry annually under current management, while predatory species (often non-native) tended to dominate deeper holes. Water quality was correlated with hole volume and with composition of late dry-season fish communities. Tremendous losses of fish biomass occurred when water levels fell below 46 cm from ground surface. Most native taxa were unlikely to survive in the deep refuges that held predatory non-native taxa. ?? 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Community structure of fishes inhabiting aquatic refuges in a threatened Karst wetland and its implications for ecosystem management