Size, shape, orientation, and distribution of tree islands in a remnant of northern Everglades wetland were examined from 1950 and 1991 aerial photography. The objectives were to quantify the patterns of tree islands in Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, to determine if the patterns of tree islands had changed between the two dates, and to relate the tree island patterns to modeled pre- and post-drainage hydrologic patterns. There was considerable variation in the patterns of tree islands spatially and temporally. Changes in the size and shape of tree islands from 1950 to 1991 are consistent with changes in the modeled pre- and post-drainage hydrologic patterns. Photo plots along the edges of the refuge, where hydroperiods are longer and depths deeper than they were historically, show a decrease in tree island size and in overall area of tree islands in the plots. Photo plots in the interior, where hydroperiods are shorter than they were pre-drainage, show an increase in tree island area. Overall, there is a tendency for more tree islands to be irregularly shaped in the 1991 photo plots than in the 1950 plots, a reflection of the loss of water flow, reduction of pulse magnitude, and the ponding of water along the perimeter dikes. This study illustrates the importance of considering long-term changes in hydroperiod, depths, and water flows in the restoration of this area.
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Patterns of change in tree islands in Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge from 1950 to 1991