Decadal Change in Vegetation and Soil Phosphorus Pattern across the Everglades Landscape
Wetlands respond to nutrient enrichment with characteristic increases in soil nutrients and shifts in plant community composition. These responses to eutrophication tend to be more rapid and longer lasting in oligotrophic systems. In this study, we documented changes associated with water quality from 1989 to 1999 in oligotrophic Everglades wetlands. We accomplished this by resampling soils and macrophytes along four transects in 1999 that were originally sampled in 1989. In addition to documenting soil phosphorus (P) levels and decadal changes in plant species composition at the same sites, we report macrophyte tissue nutrient and biomass data from 1999 for future temporal comparisons. Water quality improved throughout much of the Everglades in the 1990s. In spite of this improvement, though, we found that water quality impacts worsened during this time in areas of the northern Everglades (western Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge [NWR] and Water Conservation Area [WCA] 2A). Zones of high soil P (exceeding 700 mg P kg−1 dry wt. soil) increased to more than 1 km from the western margin canal into the Loxahatchee NWR and more than 4 km from northern boundary canal into WCA-2A. This doubling of the high soil P zones since 1989 was paralleled with an expansion of cattail (Typha spp.)-dominated marsh in both regions. Macrophyte species richness declined in both areas from 1989 to 1999 (27% in the Loxahatchee NWR and 33% in WCA-2A). In contrast, areas well south of the Everglades Agricultural Area, including WCA-3A and Everglades National Park (ENP), did not decline during this time. We found no significant decadal change in plant community patterns from 1989 and 1999 along transects in southern WCA-3A or Shark River Slough (ENP). Our 1999 sampling also included a new transect in Taylor Slough (ENP), which will allow change analysis here in the future. Regular sampling of these transects, to verify decadal-scale environmental impacts or improvements, will continue to be an important tool for long-term management and restoration of the Everglades.
Childers, D.L., R.F. Doren, G.B. Noe, M. Rugge, L.J. Scinto. 2003. Decadal change in vegetation and soil phosphorus patterns across the Everglades landscape. Journal of Environmental Quality 32: 344-362.