pp 1–15 | Cite as

The Long-Term Effects of Hurricanes Wilma and Irma on Soil Elevation Change in Everglades Mangrove Forests

  • Laura C. FeherEmail author
  • Michael J. Osland
  • Gordon H. Anderson
  • William C. Vervaeke
  • Ken W. Krauss
  • Kevin R. T. Whelan
  • Karen M. Balentine
  • Ginger Tiling-Range
  • Thomas J. SmithIII
  • Donald R. Cahoon


Mangrove forests in the Florida Everglades (USA) are frequently affected by hurricanes that produce high-velocity winds, storm surge, and extreme rainfall, but also provide sediment subsidies that help mangroves adjust to sea-level rise. The long-term influence of hurricane sediment inputs on soil elevation dynamics in mangrove forests is not well understood. Here, we assessed the effects of sediment deposition during Hurricanes Wilma (2005) and Irma (2017) on soil elevation change at two mangrove forests located along the Shark and Lostmans Rivers in Everglades National Park. We used surface elevation change data from a 16-year period (2002–2018), measured with the surface elevation table-marker horizon (SET-MH) approach. At the Shark River mangrove forest, we used marker horizons and a combination of deep, shallow, and original SETs to quantify the contributions of four soil zones to net soil elevation change. Rates of elevation change were greatly influenced by storm sediments. Abrupt increases in elevation due to sediment inputs and subsurface expansion during Hurricane Wilma were followed by: (1) an initial post-hurricane period of elevation loss due to erosion of hurricane sediments and subsurface contraction; (2) a secondary period of elevation gain due primarily to accretion; and (3) an abrupt elevation gain due to new sediment inputs during Hurricane Irma. Our findings suggest that elevation change in hurricane-affected mangrove forests can be cyclical or include disjunct phases, which is critical information for advancing the understanding of wetland responses to accelerated sea-level rise given the expectation of increasing storm intensity due to climate change.


mangrove forest hurricane sea-level rise surface elevation change accretion sediment deposition peat storm surge tropical cyclone Everglades National Park 



We are grateful to Jim Lynch, Christa Walker, Greg Ward, Fara Ilami, Paul Nelson, Luz Romero, Suzanne Chwala, Matt Finn, and the many other individuals that helped develop, maintain SET sites and collect these data. We also thank the Everglades National Park staff for their permission to conduct this research (Current NPS Permit # EVER-2017-SCI-0049) and Karen McKee for comments on an earlier draft. This research was supported by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystems Science Program, the USGS Ecosystems Mission Area, and the USGS Land Change Science Climate R&D Program. Everglades National Park sediment elevation and marker horizon data generated in this study are available at (Feher and others 2017). Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 58 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature (This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura C. Feher
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael J. Osland
    • 1
  • Gordon H. Anderson
    • 2
  • William C. Vervaeke
    • 1
  • Ken W. Krauss
    • 1
  • Kevin R. T. Whelan
    • 3
  • Karen M. Balentine
    • 4
  • Ginger Tiling-Range
    • 5
  • Thomas J. SmithIII
    • 2
  • Donald R. Cahoon
    • 6
  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey Wetland and Aquatic Research CenterLafayetteUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological Survey Wetland and Aquatic Research CenterGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.U.S. National Park ServiceMiamiUSA
  4. 4.U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceSuffolkUSA
  5. 5.National Marine Fisheries Service (Contracted Through Jamison Professional Services)NOAA Southeast Regional OfficeSt. PetersburgUSA
  6. 6.U.S. Geological SurveyLaurelUSA

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