Forest Resource Islands in a Sub-tropical Marsh: Soil–Site Relationships in Everglades Hardwood Hammocks
Spatial heterogeneity in soils is often characterized by the presence of resource-enriched patches ranging in size from a single shrub to wooded thickets. If the patches persist long enough, the primary constraint on production may transition from one limiting environmental factor to another. Tree islands that are scattered throughout the Florida Everglades basin comprise nutrient-enriched patches, or resource islands, in P-limited oligotrophic marshes. We used principal component analysis and multiple regressions to characterize the belowground environment (soil, hydrology) of one type of tree island, hardwood hammocks, and examined its relationship with the three structural variables (basal area, biomass, and canopy height) indicative of site productivity. Hardwood hammocks in the southern Everglades grow on two distinct soil types. The first, consisting of shallow, organic, relatively low-P soils, is common in the seasonally flooded Marl Prairie landscape. In contrast, hammocks on islands embedded in long hydroperiod marsh have deeper, alkaline, mineral soils with extremely high P concentrations. However, this edaphic variation does not translate simply into differences in forest structure and production. Relative water depth was unrelated to all measures of forest structure and so was soil P, but the non-carbonate component of the mineral soil fraction exhibited a strong positive relationship with canopy height. The development of P-enriched forest resource islands in the Everglades marsh is accompanied by the buildup of a mineral soil; however, limitations on growth in mature islands appear to differ substantively from those that dominate incipient stages in the transformation from marsh to forest. Key words: resource island; tree
Ross, M.S., J.P. Sah. 2011. Forest resource islands in a sub-tropical marsh: soil-site relationships in Everglades hardwood hammocks. Ecosystems 14(4): 632-645.