FCE LTER Journal Articles


Hurricane Wilma’s impact on overall soil elevation and zones within the soil profile in a mangrove forest


Soil elevation affects tidal inundation period, inundation frequency, and overall hydroperiod, all of which are important ecological factors affecting species recruitment, composition, and survival in wetlands. Hurricanes can dramatically affect a site’s soil elevation. We assessed the impact of Hurricane Wilma (2005) on soil elevation at a mangrove forest location along the Shark River in Everglades National Park, Florida, USA. Using multiple depth surface elevation tables (SETs) and marker horizons we measured soil accretion, erosion, and soil elevation. We partitioned the effect of Hurricane Wilma’s storm deposit into four constituent soil zones: surface (accretion) zone, shallow zone (0–0.35 m), middle zone (0.35–4 m), and deep zone (4–6 m). We report expansion and contraction of each soil zone. Hurricane Wilma deposited 37.0 (±3.0 SE) mm of material; however, the absolute soil elevation change was + 42.8 mm due to expansion in the shallow soil zone. One year post-hurricane, the soil profile had lost 10.0 mm in soil elevation, with 8.5 mm of the loss due to erosion. The remaining soil elevation loss was due to compaction from shallow subsidence. We found prolific growth of new fine rootlets (209 ± 34 SE g m−2) in the storm deposited material suggesting that deposits may become more stable in the near future (i.e., erosion rate will decrease). Surficial erosion and belowground processes both played an important role in determining the overall soil elevation. Expansion and contraction in the shallow soil zone may be due to hydrology, and in the middle and bottom soil zones due to shallow subsidence. Findings thus far indicate that soil elevation has made substantial gains compared to site specific relative sea-level rise, but data trends suggest that belowground processes, which differ by soil zone, may come to dominate the long term ecological impact of storm deposit.


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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