Aeolian dust is rarely considered an important source for nutrients in large peatlands, which generally develop in moist regions far from the major centers of dust production. As a result, past studies assumed that the Everglades provides a classic example of an originally oligotrophic, P-limited wetland that was subsequently degraded by anthropogenic activities. However, a multiproxy sedimentary record indicates that changes in atmospheric circulation patterns produced an abrupt shift in the hydrology and dust deposition in the Everglades over the past 4,600 y. A wet climatic period with high loadings of aeolian dust prevailed before 2800 cal BP (calibrated years before present) when vegetation typical of a deep slough dominated the principal drainage outlet of the Everglades. This dust was apparently transported from distant source areas, such as the Sahara Desert, by tropical storms according to its elemental chemistry and mineralogy. A drier climatic regime with a steep decline in dustfall persisted after 2800 cal BP maintaining sawgrass vegetation at the coring site as tree islands developed nearby (and pine forests covered adjacent uplands). The marked decline in dustfall was related to corresponding declines in sedimentary phosphorus, organic nitrogen, and organic carbon, suggesting that a close relationship existed between dustfall, primary production, and possibly, vegetation patterning before the 20th century. The climatic change after 2800 cal BP was probably produced by a shift in the Bermuda High to the southeast, shunting tropical storms to the south of Florida into the Gulf of Mexico.
Additional publication details
Holocene dynamics of the Florida Everglades with respect to climate, dustfall, and tropical storms