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Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 517–542 | Cite as

The Everglades: North America’s subtropical wetland

  • Curtis J. RichardsonEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

The Everglades is the largest subtropical wetland in the United States. Because of its size, floral and faunal diversity, geological history and hydrological functions on the Florida landscape, the remaining Everglades are considered to be the crown jewel of U.S. wetlands. It is also called a “sentinel wetland” to test our society’s resolve for ecosystem restoration. Originally called Pa-hay-okee (“grassy lake”) by the American Indians, it was later popularized as the “river of grass” by Marjory Stoneman Douglas. This metaphor unfortunately has led to a simplistic view of the complexities of the Everglades ecosystem and how it functions on the landscape. Often incorrectly referred to as the “marsh” or “swamp,” the Everglades is a fen peatland or alkaline mire. These are important distinctions when one considers how different marshes and swamps are from peatlands in terms of their hydrologic controls, biogeochemistry, rate of peat development, plant and animal communities and-importantly-succession patterns. This paper provides a brief review of the geological processes that led to the development of the Everglades, compares historic and current hydrologic flow patterns, assesses nutrient conditions, presents information on vegetation communities and succession patterns, and provides a new peatland classification of the Everglades system, which may help in the development of a more appropriate restoration management framework.

Keywords

Peatland Wetland Classification Hydrology Phosphorus Biogeochemistry Fire Plant communities Ecosystem management 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Many thanks to the researchers and graduate students who worked on the Everglades project at Duke University over the past 15 years. Specific research contributions or ideas in this paper were made by C. Craft, K. Hofmockel, J, Huvane, J. Vymazal, E. Romanowicz, and S. Qian. M. Ho provided a number of figures, and R. Neighbarger aided in review and editing. Thanks go out to two anonymous reviewers who greatly improved this manuscript. This synthesis paper is an updated and extracted version of some findings presented in the recent book by C. J. Richardson The Everglades Experiments: Lessons for Restoration published by Springer. Funding for this research was provided by the Florida Everglades Protection District and the Duke University Wetland Center Endowment.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Duke University Wetland CenterNicholas School of the EnvironmentDurhamUSA

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