Urbanization’s Impact on Ecological Communities in Natural Lakes versus Constructed Stormwater Ponds

Urbanization adversely impacts the structure and function of ecosystems and landscapes. Construction of parking lots and buildings increases the area of impervious surfaces, which increases storm water runoff into nearby ponds and streams.  The increase in runoff can cause flooding and erosion of urban streams, and the redirection of unfiltered water poses a threat to quality of downstream aquatic systems.  To mitigate these effects, stormwater detention ponds are built to collect and store runoff during storm events, and discharge the water slowly through controlled outflow structures.  The requirement for stormwater detention ponds in response to expanding urban development has significantly increased the number of aquatic systems in the landscape in Central Florida, but it is not known whether the ecological communities in these artificial systems are comparable to those in more natural systems.  Aquatic scientists and government agencies have developed indices that help evaluate the health of aquatic systems based on abundance and diversity of vegetation, insects, and macro invertebrates.  In this study, I plan to compare vegetation and macro-invertebrate communities in three stormwater ponds on the UCF campus to those in three nearby lakes.

The results will indicate whether stormwater ponds support the same types of communities that are found in natural systems, and will increase our understanding of the factors that influence community structure.  They may also suggest design and management approaches that could improve the ecological quality of these systems.

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