The Pomacea Project – - A New Website on Florida Apple Snails

Pomacea paludosa laying eggs

Sometimes, it takes the population decline of a beautiful animal like the Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis) to draw attention to the importance of, as The Pomacea Project puts it, “less charismatic” species like the native Florida apple snail (Pomacea paludosa). Clearly, the fate of the endangered Snail Kite hinges on the density of its apple snail prey. Patty Valentine-Darby and her husband Dr. Phillip C. Darby, Associate Professor at University of West Florida, were early in understanding that the density of the native apple snail could be used to determine the health of Florida’s aquatic habitats, in general: “Given their relative immobility and sensitivity to changes in water level and plant community structure, apple snails are an excellent indicator of local habitat conditions.”  In the late 90’s, while Phil was conducting his PhD research on P. paludosa, Patty was publishing kite-related papers, such as “Seasonal Patterns of Habitat Use by Snail Kites in Florida.” Since then, Patty and Dr. Phil Darby have made quite a team when it comes to wetlands ecology, specifically concerning the role of the Florida apple snail as a proverbial canary in Florida’s wetland “coal mine.”  

In 2005, Patty and Phil conceived the idea of creating a website to support other biologists who share the view that Florida apple snails act “a barometer of Florida wetland ecosystem health.” Incorporated in 2008, the Pomacea Project gained its official not-for-profit status this year. Subsequently, The Pomacea Project received funding the National Park Service to “to summarize available information on apple snails, snail kites, and other snail predators, including management recommendations to improve habitat conditions for these species.” Though this document will not be completed until 2012, a website is now available “to provide conservation and management information pertinent to the immediate needs of natural resource managers and the general public.”     

The Pomacea Project website became available this week and already contains a wealth of information on native apple snails, including basic biology, sampling methods, and management issues. The impacts of dry downs, exotic snails, and predators are discussed. There is an online brochure cleverly entitled “The 60-Second Snail – - a primer on apple snails when you only have a minute.” To me, the page with the greatest potential is the “Status and Trends” page, where observations on apple snail densities from eight of the most important apple snail habitats are recorded and updated. They hope to expand this effort to many other wetlands and lakes in the future. All in all, Patty & Phil have done a great job on this new site. They currently do not have funding to support updating and expanding their website. Check it out and, if you can, help them out by making a tax-deductible donation! Posted by Jess Van Dyke  

The Pomacea Project:  

http://www.pomaceaproject.org

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About Snail Busters

The Snail Busters Blog was created to facilitate communication between aquatic resource managers who are fighting the spread of invasive, South American apple snails, specifically Pomacea maculata (formerly P. insularum) and P. canaliculata, in the U.S.

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