Transpiration-driven nutrient accumulation has been identified as a potential mechanism governing the creation and maintenance of wetland vegetation patterning. This process may contribute to the formation of nutrient-rich tree islands within the expansive oligotrophic marshes of the Everglades (Florida, United States). This study presents hydrogeochemical data indicating that tree root water uptake is a primary driver of groundwater ion accumulation across one of these islands. Sap flow, soil moisture, water level, water chemistry, and rainfall were measured to identify the relationships between climate, transpiration, and groundwater uptake by phreatophytes and to examine the effect this uptake has on groundwater chemistry and mineral formation in three woody plant communities of differing elevations. During the dry season, trees relied more on groundwater for transpiration, which led to a depressed water table and the advective movement of groundwater and dissolved ions, including phosphorus, from the surrounding marsh towards the centre of the island. Ion exclusion during root water uptake led to elevated concentrations of all major dissolved ions in the tree island groundwater compared with the adjacent marsh. Groundwater was predominately supersaturated with respect to aragonite and calcite in the lower-elevation woody communities, indicating the potential for soil formation. Elevated groundwater phosphorous concentrations detected in the highest-elevation woody community were associated with the leaching of inorganic sediments (i.e. hydroxyapatite) in the vadose zone. Understanding the complex feedback mechanisms regulating plant/groundwater/surface water interactions, nutrient dynamics, and potential soil formation is necessary to manage and restore patterned wetlands such as the Everglades.
Additional publication details
The influence of vegetation on the hydrodynamics and geomorphology of a tree island in Everglades National Park (Florida, United States)