FCE LTER Journal Articles

Title

Rapid responses of vegetation to hydrological changes in Taylor Slough, Everglades National Park, Florida, USA

Abstract

We analyzed the dynamics of freshwater marsh vegetation of Taylor Slough in eastern Everglades National Park for the 1979 to 2003 period, focusing on cover of individual plant species and on cover and composition of marsh communities in areas potentially influenced by a canal pump station (‘‘S332’’) and its successor station (‘‘S332D’’). Vegetation change analysis incorporated the hydrologic record at these sites for three intervals: pre-S332 (1961–1980), S332 (1980–1999), post-S332 (1999–2002). During S332 and post-S332 intervals, water level in Taylor Slough was affected by operations of S332 and S332D. To relate vegetation change to plot-level hydrological conditions in Taylor Slough, we developed a weighted averaging regression and calibration model (WA) using data from the marl prairies of Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. We examined vegetation pattern along five transects. Transects 1–3 were established in 1979 south of the water delivery structures, and were influenced by their operations. Transects 4 and 5 were established in 1997, the latter west of these structures and possibly under their influence. Transect 4 was established in the northern drainage basin of Taylor Slough, beyond the likely zones of influence of S332 and S332D. The composition of all three southern transects changed similarly after 1979. Where muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris var. filipes) was once dominant, sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense), replaced it, while where sawgrass initially predominated, hydric species such as spikerush (Eleocharis cellulosa Torr.) overtook it. Most of the changes in species dominance in Transects 1–3 occurred after 1992, were mostly in place by 1995–1996, and continued through 1999, indicating how rapidly vegetation in seasonal Everglades marshes can respond to hydrological modifications. During the post-S332 period, these long-term trends began reversing. In the two northern transects, total cover and dominance of both muhly grass and sawgrass increased from 1997 to 2003. Thus, during the 1990’s, vegetation composition south of S332 became more like that of long hydroperiod marshes, but afterward it partially returned to its 1979 condition, i.e., a community characteristic of less prolonged flooding. In contrast, the vegetation change along the two northern transects since 1997 showed little relationship to hydrologic status.

Comments

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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