Plant communities present in 1978 and 1986 were analyzed at 250 random points on stereoscopic pairs of aerial photographs for four study sites in the vicinity of the Northwest Well Field in Dade County, Florida. Sites NW and NE lie northwest of the well field beyond the cone of depression. Site SW lies in the outer part of the cone, and site SE lies within the cone of depression. Relative frequency values for several plant types including herbs, shrubs-small trees, and trees were analyzed by the Heterogeneity G-test to determine heterogeneity among sites in 1978 and 1986.
In 1978, all four sites were dominated by plant communities having herbs, shrubs, or a mixture thereof. The communities at sites NW and NE were similar, and those at SE and SW were somewhat similar. In 1986, sites NW, NE, and SE were dominated by a mixture of shrubs and trees. Only at site SW was the relative frequency of occurrence of herbaceous plants still high. At each site, there was a decrease in herbaceous vegetation and an increase in woody vegetation during this period, with the increase in trees being greatest at site SE.
Time between the start of the well-field operation in May 1983 and the January 1986 photographs was insufficient to allow determination of any direct effects of the well field on the vegetation. Ground-level observations in 1987 and 1988 indicate a trend toward continued increase in dominance of woody plants and a decrease in herbaceous wetland vegetation. Development of a forest of the exotic pest tree melaleuca is occurring at all four sites, but especially at site SE. Vegetative changes between 1978 and 1986 are attributed to an invasion of the exotic species melaleuca, a shortened hydroperiod, and natural succession within the plant communities.