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Response of the everglades ridge and slough landscape to climate variability and 20th-century water management

January 1, 2009

The ridge and slough landscape of the Florida Everglades consists of a mosaic of linear sawgrass ridges separated by deeper-water sloughs with tree islands interspersed throughout the landscape. We used pollen assemblages from transects of sediment cores spanning sawgrass ridges, sloughs, and ridge-slough transition zones to determine the timing of ridge and slough formation and to evaluate the response of components of the ridge and slough landscape to climate variability and 20th-century water management. These pollen data indicate that sawgrass ridges and sloughs have been vegetationally distinct from one another since initiation of the Everglades wetland in mid-Holocene time. Although the position and community composition of sloughs have remained relatively stable throughout their history, modern sawgrass ridges formed on sites that originally were occupied by marshes. Ridge formation and maturation were initiated during intervals of drier climate (the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age) when the mean position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone shifted southward. During these drier intervals, marsh taxa were more common in sloughs, but they quickly receded when precipitation increased. Comparison with regional climate records suggests that slough vegetation is strongly influenced by North Atlantic Oscillation variability, even under 20th-century water management practices. ?? 2009 by the Ecological Society of America.