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Army Corps of Engineers to spend estimated $725k to study gator habits in Everglades

Corps sees alligator population as proxy for condition of other species, overall marsh health.

Updated: July 17, 2021 - 10:47pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

This week's award goes to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for up to $725,265 in total funding to research alligator habits in the Florida Everglades, according to a watchdog group.

The agency is providing researchers initial base funding $145,053 to study gators' eating, sleeping and nesting habits, with subsequent additional funding available up to an estimated total of $725,265 for the study’s duration, OpentheBooks reported. Submissions for the grant closed on July 8.

The grant notice states that alligators are an important indicator of the ecology of the Everglades and cites numerous completed research studies that link the two. Left unstated is why additional research is warranted considering the many studies identified by the grant.

The grant synopsis cites research linking "three key aspects of Everglades' ecology to crocodilians: 

(1) Top predators such as crocodilians are directly dependent on prey density, especially aquatic and semi-aquatic organisms, and thus they provide a surrogate for status of many other species. 

(2) Drier (nests) and wetter (trails and holes) conditions created by ecosystem engineers like alligators provide habitat for plants and animals that otherwise would not be able to survive. This increases diversity and productivity of Everglades marshes ... and, therefore, alligator monitoring can indicate overall health of the marsh.

(3) The distribution and abundance of crocodilians in estuaries is directly dependent on timing, amount, and location of freshwater flow ... crocodiles and alligators exhibit an immediate response to changes in freshwater inputs into the estuaries ..."

The agency's long-term objective is to identify changes in alligator numbers and body condition as it pertains to water delivery changes and the presence of prey. Another research objective is to observe alligator nesting and their body conditions as they relate to water conditions.

The awarded grant is part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan authorized under the Water Resources Development Act of 2000.