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Reconstructing vegetation response to altered hydrology and its use for restoration, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

August 30, 2013

We present reconstructed hydrologic and vegetation trends of the last three centuries across the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida in order to understand the effects of 20th century water management. We analyzed pollen assemblages from cores at marsh sites along three transects to document vegetation and infer hydroperiod and water depth both before and after human alteration of Everglades hydrology. In the northern and central part of the Refuge, late Holocene water levels were higher and hydroperiods longer than the last 100 years. Post-1950 was a time of several different water management strategies. Pollen assemblages indicate drier conditions post-1950 in the northern and central parts of the Refuge, whereas sites in the southern Refuge are wetter and vegetation turnover is higher. Throughout the Refuge, Sagittaria pollen declines with the onset of water management, and may indicate a loss of greater variation in hydroperiods across years and water depths between seasons. Paleoecological evidence provides clear estimates of the vegetation response to hydrologic change under specific hydrologic regimes.