The Effect of Contemporary Hydrologic Modification on Vegetation Community Composition Distinctness in the Florida Everglades

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Isherwood, Ewan
Florida International University
Everglades; ridge; slough; vegetation communities; species composition; ordination; hydrologic regimes; topography; lags; alternative stable states; Plant Biology; Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology
thesis / dissertation description
The historic Everglades Ridge and Slough landscape maintained regularly spaced and elevated sawgrass ridges interspersed among exposed deeper-water sloughs; however, widespread but irregular hydrologic modification has degraded much of this landscape patterning. My study assessed the effects of hydrologic modification on vegetation community distinctness within the Ridge and Slough landscape through sampling species composition at fine-scales along a hydrologic gradient to measure the magnitude of segregation of species among patch types. The results show that vegetation community and topographic variation degradation is widespread, with distinctness differences proceeding and possibly being driven by topographic variation loss. Vegetation responses to past hydrologic regime modifications are likely affected by temporal lags; however, vegetation distinctness regeneration may also be hindered by a vegetatively homogeneous alternative stable state. Hydrologic regime restoration is critical for Ridge and Slough patterned landscape reestablishment, but management targets are complicated by vegetation response lags and possibly alternative stable states.