Role of a naturally varying flow regime in Everglades restoration

Restoration Ecology
By: , and 

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Abstract

The Everglades is a low-gradient floodplain predominantly on organic soil that undergoes seasonally pulsing sheetflow through a network of deepwater sloughs separated by slightly higher elevation ridges. The seasonally pulsing flow permitted the coexistence of ridge and slough vegetation, including the persistence of productive, well-connected sloughs that seasonally concentrated prey and supported wading bird nesting success. Here we review factors contributing to the origin and to degradation of the ridge and slough ecosystem in an attempt to answer “How much flow is needed to restore functionality”? A key restoration objective is to increase sheetflow lost during the past century to reestablish interactions between flow, water depth, vegetation production and decomposition, and transport of flocculent organic sediment that build and maintain ridge and slough distinctions. Our review finds broad agreement that perturbations of water level depth and its fluctuations were primary in the degradation of landscape functions, with critical contributions from perturbed water quality, and flow velocity and direction. Whereas water levels are expected to be improved on average across a range of restoration scenarios that replace between 79 and 91% of predrainage flows, the diminished microtopography substantially decreases the probability of timely improvements in some areas whereas others that retain microtopographic differences are poised for restoration benefits. New advances in predicting restoration outcomes are coming from biophysical modeling of ridge–slough dynamics, system-wide measurements of landscape functionality, and large-scale flow restoration experiments, including active management techniques to kick-start slough regeneration.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Role of a naturally varying flow regime in Everglades restoration
Series title Restoration Ecology
DOI 10.1111/rec.12558
Volume 25
Issue S1
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Eastern Branch
Description 12 p.
First page S27
Last page S38
Country United States
State Florida
Other Geospatial Everglades