Implications of discontinuous elevation gradients on fragmentation and restoration in patterned wetlands

Ecosphere
By: , and 

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Abstract

Large wetlands around the world face the possibility of degradation, not only from complete conversion, but also from subtle changes in their structure and function. While fragmentation and isolation of wetlands within heterogeneous landscapes has received much attention, the disruption of spatial patterns/processes within large wetland systems and the resulting fragmentation of community components are less well documented. A greater understanding of pattern/process relationships and landscape gradients, and what occurs when they are altered, could help avoid undesirable consequences of restoration actions. The objective of this study is to determine the amount of fragmentation of sawgrass ridges due to artificial impoundment of water and how that may be differentially affected by spatial position relative to north and south levees. We also introduce groundbreaking evidence of landscape-level discontinuous elevation gradients within WCA3AS by comparing generalized linear and generalized additive models. These relatively abrupt breaks in elevation may have non-linear effects on hydrology and vegetation communities and would be crucial in restoration considerations. Modeling suggests there are abrupt breaks in elevation as a function of northing (Y-coordinate). Fragmentation indices indicate that fragmentation is a function of elevation and easting (X-coordinate), and that fragmentation has increased from 1988-2002. When landscapes change and the changes are compounded by non-linear landscape variables that are described herein, the maintenance processes change with them, creating a degraded feedback loop that alters the system's response to structuring variables and diminishes our ability to predict the effects of restoration projects or climate change. Only when these landscape variables and linkages are clearly defined can we predict the response to potential perturbations and apply the knowledge to other landscape-level wetland systems in need of future restoration.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Implications of discontinuous elevation gradients on fragmentation and restoration in patterned wetlands
Series title Ecosphere
DOI 10.1890/ES11-00119.1
Volume 2
Issue 8
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta
Description 14 p.
First page 1
Last page 14
Country United States
State Florida
Other Geospatial Everglades, Water Conservation Area 3A
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N