FCE LTER Journal Articles


Across-scale patterning of plant-soil-water interactions surrounding tree islands in Southern Everglades landscapes


The freshwater Everglades is a complex system containing thousands of tree islands embedded within a marsh-grassland matrix. The tree island-marsh mosaic is shaped and maintained by hydrologic, edaphic and biological mechanisms that interact across multiple scales. Preserving tree islands requires a more integrated understanding of how scale-dependent phenomena interact in the larger freshwater system. The hierarchical patch dynamics paradigm provides a conceptual framework for exploring multi-scale interactions within complex systems. We used a three-tiered approach to examine the spatial variability and patterning of nutrients in relation to site parameters within and between two hydrologically defined Everglades landscapes: the freshwater Marl Prairie and the Ridge and Slough. Results were scale-dependent and complexly interrelated. Total carbon and nitrogen patterning were correlated with organic matter accumulation, driven by hydrologic conditions at the system scale. Total and bioavailable phosphorus were most strongly related to woody plant patterning within landscapes, and were found to be 3 to 11 times more concentrated in tree island soils compared to surrounding marshes. Below canopy resource islands in the slough were elongated in a downstream direction, indicating soil resource directional drift. Combined multi-scale results suggest that hydrology plays a significant role in landscape patterning and also the development and maintenance of tree islands. Once developed, tree islands appear to exert influence over the spatial distribution of nutrients, which can reciprocally affect other ecological processes.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DBI-0620409 and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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