Tree islands in the Shark River Slough of the Everglades National Park (ENP), in the southern state of Florida in the United States, are part of a wetland system of densely vegetated ridges interspersed within relatively open sloughs. Human alteration of this system has had dramatic negative effects on the landscape of the region and restoration efforts will require adjusting the hydrology of the region to assure the preservation of these important ecologic features. The primary objectives of this study were to document the hydrology in the vicinity of tree islands in ENP by measuring velocities in time and space and by characterizing suspended sediments. The results of such measurements were interpreted with respect to factors that may limit tree island growth. The measurements were conducted in the vicinity of three tree islands known as Black Hammock (BH), Gumbo Limbo (GL), and an unnamed island that was named for this study as Satin Leaf (SL). Acoustical Doppler Velocity (ADV) meters were used for measuring the low velocities of the Everglades water flow. Properties of suspended sediments were characterized through measurements of particle size distribution, turbidity, concentration and particle density. Mean velocities observed at each of the tree islands varied from 0.9 to 1.4 cm/s. Slightly higher mean velocities were observed during the wet season (1.2–1.6 cm/s) versus the dry season (0.8–1.3 cm/s). Maximum velocities of more than 4 cm/s were measured in areas of Cladium jamaicense die-off and at the hardwood hammock (head) of the islands. At the island’s head, water is channelized around obstructions such as tree trunks in relatively rapid flow, which may limit the lateral extent of tree island growth. Channelization is facilitated by shade from the tree canopy, which limits the growth of underwater vegetation thereby minimizing the resistance to flow and limiting sediment deposition. Suspended sediment concentrations were low (0.5–1.5 mg/L) at all study sites and were primarily of organic origin. The mean particle size of the suspended sediments was 3 μm with a distribution that was exponential. Critical velocities needed to cause re-suspension of these particles were estimated to be above the actual velocities observed. Sediment transport within the water column appears to be at a near steady state during the conditions evaluated with low rates of sediment loss balanced by presumably the release of equivalent quantities of particles of organic origin. Existing hydrologic conditions do not appear to transport sufficient suspended sediments to result in the formation of tree islands. Of interest would be to collect hydrologic and sediment transport data during extreme hydrologic events to determine if enough sediment is transported under these conditions to promote sufficient sediment accumulations.
Bazante, J., G. Jacobi, H. Solo-Gabriele, D.R. Reed, S. Mitchell-Bruker, D.L. Childers, L. Leonard, M.S. Ross. 2006. Hydrologic measurements and implications for tree island formation within Everglades National Park. Journal of Hydrology 329(3-4): 606-619.