The Effects of Disturbance, Phosphorus, and Water Level on Plant Succession in the Everglades
The Everglades is a dynamic fen system that has thrived under conditions of low phosphorus, shallow water sheet flow, and annual alterations of wet/dry seasons. It has also adapted to periodic lightening induced fires, droughts, hurricanes, and occasional winter frosts (Davis 1943).
The main water inputs into the system before anthropogenic alterations were rainfall and overflow of Lake Okeechobee during flooding events (Davis 1943).As a result, the plant communities within this ecosystem have evolved under low-nutrient conditions with the dominant community being monotypic Cladium jamaicense Crantz stands. Interspersed with the Cladium stands are wet prairies, sloughs, alligator holes, and marsh areas with tree islands that provide a diversity of aquatic habitats (Loveless 1959; Gunderson 1994; Jordan et al. 1997).
The purpose of this study is to quantify the effects of soil disturbance, P additions, and increased water depth on the succession pattern of Everglades plant communities. The hypothesis is that alteration of the conditions to which plant communities are specifically adapted will result in a community different from those historically present in the Everglades. Of special interest is the cause for Typha invasion, because past studies have indicated that increased Typha growth is primarily found in areas of increased nutrients and water levels (Newman et al. 1996). While Typha has been found to be a successful competitor in areas of deeper water and increased nutrients, there is not a definitive agreement as to whether Typha directly competes with and excludes Cladium (Newman et al. 1998). This is of special interest in the Everglades, where Cladium plays an important role for juvenile fish refuge, peat accretion, and an organic phosphorus reservoir (Miao et al. 1997).
KeywordsSoil Disturbance Tree Island Pore Water Chemistry Everglades Agricultural Area Phosphorus Treatment
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