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Status and history of the Ridge-Slough Mosaic The Florida Everglades is a large subtropical wetland with diverse hydrologic, edaphic, and vegetative characteristics. Historically, a significant portion of this system was a slow moving river originating from the Kissimmee River floodplain, flowing into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee, and draining south-southwest over extensive peatlands into Florida Bay (McVoy 2011). Human-induced alterations to the hydrologic regime, including reduction, stabilization, and impoundment of water flow through diversion and compartmentalization of water via canals and levees have degraded pre-drainage vegetation patterns and microtopographic structure (Davis and Ogden 1994, Ogden 2005, McVoy 2011). The Everglades peatland emerged 5,000 years ago with the stabilization of sea level at approximately current elevations (Loveless 1959, Gleason and Stone 1994). This, combined with subtropical rainfalls, allowed a vast mass of water to slowly flow over a limestone bedrock platform 160 km long and 50 km wide at a near uniform descent totaling about 6 m, ultimately reaching Florida Bay (Stephens 1956, Gleason and Stone 1994, McVoy 2011). Vegetation quickly colonized the area, and peat, in the absence of adequate respiration, accumulated on the limestone bedrock to a depth of 3-3.7 m (Gleason and Stone 1994, McVoy et al. 2011). The “River of Grass” referenced by Douglas (1947) alludes to the dually intertwined processes of the historic riverine nature of the Everglades and the vast sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) communities that have dominated the landscape for about the last 1,000 years (Bernhardt and Willard 2009).


A report from the South Florida Terrestrial Ecosystems Lab (SOFTEL).



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