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Hydrologic modifications have negatively impacted the Florida Everglades in numerous significant ways. The compartmentalization of the once continuously flowing system into the Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) caused disruption of the slow natural flow of water south from Lake Okeechobee through the Everglades to Florida Bay. The ponding of water in the WCAs, the linking of water flow to controlled water levels, and the management of water levels for anthropogenic vs. ecological well-being has caused a reduction in the spatial heterogeneity of the Everglades leading to greater uniformity in topography and vegetation. These effects are noticeable as the degradation in structure of the Everglades Ridge and Slough environment and associated Tree Islands. In aquatic systems water flow is of fundamental importance in shaping the structure and function of the ecosystem. The organized patterns of parallel orientation of ridges, sloughs, and tear-drop shaped tree islands along historic flow paths attest to the importance of water movement in structuring this system. Our main objective was to operate and manage the LILA facility to provide a broad potential as a research platform for an integrated group of multidisciplinary, multi-agency scientists collaborating on multifunctional studies aimed primarily at determining the effects of CERP water management scenarios on the ecology of tree islands and ridge and slough habitats. We support Everglades water management, CERP, and the Long-Term Plan by defining hydrologic regimes that sustain healthy tree islands and ridge and slough ecosystems. Information gained through this project will help to reduce the uncertainty of predicting the tree island and ridge and slough ecosystem response to changes in hydrologic conditions. Additionally, we have developed the LILA site as a visual example of Everglades restoration programs in action.


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



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