, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 275–286 | Cite as

Factors Controlling Surface Water Flow in a Low-gradient Subtropical Wetland

  • Guoqing He
  • Victor Engel
  • Lynn Leonard
  • Alex Croft
  • Daniel Childers
  • Michael Laas
  • Yang Deng
  • Helena M. Solo-Gabriele
Original Paper


Surface water flow patterns in wetlands play a role in shaping substrates, biogeochemical cycling, and ecosystem characteristics. This paper focuses on the factors controlling flow across a large, shallow gradient subtropical wetland (Shark River Slough in Everglades National Park, USA), which displays vegetative patterning indicative of overland flow. Between July 2003 and December 2007, flow speeds at five sites were very low (<3 cm s−1), and exhibited seasonal fluctuations that were correlated with seasonal changes in water depth but also showed distinctive deviations. Stepwise linear regression showed that upstream gate discharges, local stage gradients, and stage together explained 50 to 90% of the variance in flow speed at four of the five sites and only 10% at one site located close to a levee-canal combination. Two non-linear, semi-empirical expressions relating flow speeds to the local hydraulic gradient, water depths, and vegetative resistance accounted for 70% of the variance in our measured speed. The data suggest local-scale factors such as channel morphology, vegetation density, and groundwater exchanges must be considered along with landscape position and basin-scale geomorphology when examining the interactions between flow and community characteristics in low-gradient wetlands such as the Everglades.


Florida Everglades Flow resistance Restoration Water speed Water velocity 



This project was funded by Critical Ecosystem Studies Initiative, Everglades National Park under cooperative agreements J5280020111-H500000B494 and J5297050059-H500000B494. Partial support was also provided by the National Science Foundation through its support of the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research Program (FCE LTER: Grants DEB-9910514 & DBI-0620409). We thank Mike Ross and the Wetland Ecosystems Ecology Lab at FIU for airboat and helicopter transport. We also thank 2 anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments.


  1. Bancroft GT (1989) Status and conservation of wading birds in the everglades. American Birds 43:1258–1265Google Scholar
  2. Bazante J, Jacobi G, Solo-Gabriele H, Reed D, Mitchell-Bruker S, Childers D, Leonard L, Ross M (2006) Hydrologic measurements and implications for tree island formation within Everglades National Park. Journal of Hydrology 329:606–619CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bolster CH, Saiers JE (2002) Development and evaluation of a mathematical model for surface water flow within the SRS of the Florida Everglades. Journal of Hydrology 259:221–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brinson MM, Lugo AE, Brown S (1981) Primary productivity, decomposition and consumer activity in freshwater wetlands. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 12:123–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown and Caldwell (1996) Manning’s ‘n’ calculation. Technical Memorandum to South Florida Water Management District, Everglades Protection Project, contract C-E201, phase 1, West Palm Beach, FL, USAGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown B, Weaver J, Browder J, Kitchens W, Glaz B, Armentano T, Goodyear C, Burns L, Morrison D, Thompson N, Richards P, Ogden JC, Hilton R, Ambrose R, Araujo R, Barber MC, Bullock R, Loux N (1994) South Florida ecosystem restoration: Scientific Information Needs. Science Subgroup. Management and Coordination Working Group, Interagency Task force on the South Florida EcosystemGoogle Scholar
  7. Childers DL, Iwaniec D, Rondeau D, Rubio G, Verdon E, Madden CJ (2006) Responses of sawgrass and spikerush to variation in hydrologic drivers and salinity in Southern everglades marshes. Hydrobiologia 569:273–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cronk JK, Mitsch WJ (1994) Aquatic metabolism in four newly constructed freshwater wetlands with different hydrologic inputs. Ecological Engineering 3:449–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Davis SM, Ogden JC (1994) Introduction. In: Davis SM, Ogden JC (eds) Everglades: the ecosystem and its restoration. St. Lucie Press, Delray Beach, pp 3–7Google Scholar
  10. Fennema RJ, Neidrauer CJ, Johnson RA, Macvicor TK, Perkins WA (1994) A computer model to simulate natural everglades hydrology. In: Davis SM, Ogden JC (eds) Everglades: the ecosystem and its restoration. St. Lucie Press, Delray Beach, pp 249–289Google Scholar
  11. Foster DR, King GA, Glaser PH, Wright HE Jr (1983) Origin of string patterns in boreal peatlands. Nature 306:256–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ho DT, Engel VC, Variano EA, Schmieder PJ, Condon ME (2009) Tracer studies of sheet flow in the Florida Everglades. Geophysical Research Letters 36:L09401. doi: 10.1029/2009GL037355 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. James WF, Richardson WB, Soballe DM (2008) Contribution of sediment fluxes and transformations to the summer nitrogen budget of an Upper Mississippi River backwater system. Hydrobiologia 598:95–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Järvelä J (2005) Effect of submerged flexible vegetation on flow structure and resistance. Journal of Hydrology 307:233–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jenter HL, Schaffranek RW (1996) Vegetation affects water movement in the Florida Everglades. U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, Factsheet FS-147-96. Available online at Accessed 12 May 2009
  16. Kadlec RH (1990) Overland flow in wetlands: vegetation resistance. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering 116:691–706CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kadlec RH, Knight RL (1996) Treatment wetlands. Lewis, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  18. Kolopinski MC, Higer AL (1969) Some aspects of the effects of the quantity and quality of water on biological communities in the Everglades National Park. Open File Report 69007, United States Geological Survey, Washington, D.C., USAGoogle Scholar
  19. Larsen LG, Harvey JW, Crimaldi JP (2007) A delicate balance: ecohydrological feedbacks governing landscape morphology in a lotic peatland. Ecological Monographs 77:591–614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Larsen LG, Harvey JW, Crimaldi JP (2009) Morphologic and transport properties of natural organic floc. Water Resources Research 45:W01410. doi: 10.1029/2008WR006990 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lee JK, Roig LC, Jenter HL, Visser HM (2004) Drag coefficients for modeling flow through emergent vegetation in the Florida Everglades. Ecological Engineering 22:237–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Leonard L, Croft AL, Childers DL, Mitchell-Bruker S, Solo-Gabriele H, Ross MS (2006) Characteristics of surface-water flows in the ridge and slough landscape of Everglades National Park: implications for particulate transport. Hydrobiologia 569:5–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Light SS, Dineen JW (1994) Water control in the everglades: a historical perspective. In: Davis SM, Ogden JC (eds) Everglades: the ecosystem and its restoration. St. Lucie Press, Delray Beach, pp 47–84Google Scholar
  24. McPherson BF, Halley R (1997) The South Florida environment: a region under stress. U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1134. Available online at Accessed 15 May 2009
  25. Musleh FA, Cruise JF (2006) Functional relationships of resistance in wide flood plains with rigid unsubmerged vegetation. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering 132:163–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nepf HM (1999) Drag, turbulence and diffusivity in flow through emergent vegetation. Water Resources Research 35:479–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nepf HM, Vivoni E (2000) Flow structure in depth-limited, vegetated flow. Journal of Geophysical Research 105:28 547–28 557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nepf HM, Mugnier CG, Zavistoski RA (1997) The effects of vegetation on longitudinal dispersion. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 44:675–684CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Noe GB, Harvey JW, Saiers J (2007) Characterization of suspended particles in Everglades wetlands. Limnology and Oceanography 52:1166–1178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ogden JC (1994) A comparison of wading bird nesting colony dynamics (1931–1946 and 1974–1989) as an indication of ecosystem conditions in the southern everglades. In: Davis SM, Ogden JC (eds) Everglades: the ecosystem and its restoration. St. Lucie Press, Delray Beach, pp 533–570Google Scholar
  31. Olmsted I, Armentano TV (1997) Vegetation of Shark Slough, Everglades National Park. SFNRC Technical Report 97-001. South Florida Natural Resource Center, Everglades National Park, Homestead, Florida, USAGoogle Scholar
  32. Palaseanu M, Pearlstine L (2008) Estimation of water surface elevations for the Everglades, Florida. Computers and Geosciences 34:815–826CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Price RM, Swart PK, Fourqurean JW (2006) Coastal groundwater discharge–an additional source of phosphorus for the oligotrophic wetlands of the Everglades. Hydrobiologia 569:23–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reddy KR, Kadlec RH, Flaig E, Gale PM (1999) Phosphorus retention in streams and wetlands: a review. Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology 29:83–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rietkerk M, Dekker SC, Wassen MJ, Verkroost AWM, Bierkens MFP (2004) A putative mechanism for bog patterning. The American Naturalist 163:699–708CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Riscassi AL, Schaffranek RW (2002) Flow velocity, water temperature and conductivity in Shark River Slough, Everglade National Park, Florida, July 1999–August 2001. USGS open file Report 02-159, USGS, Reston, VA, USAGoogle Scholar
  37. Riscassi AL, Schaffranek R (2003) Flow velocity, water temperature and conductivity in Shark River Slough, Everglade National Park, Florida, August 2001–June 2002. USGS open file report 03-348, USGS, Reston, VA, USAGoogle Scholar
  38. Riscassi AL, Schaffranek R (2004) Flow velocity, water temperature and conductivity in Shark River Slough, Everglades National Park, Florida: June 2002–July 2003. USGS open file report 04-1233, USGS, Reston, VA, USAGoogle Scholar
  39. Science Coordination Team (SCT) (2003) The role of flow in the Everglades ridge and slough landscape. In: Aumen NG (ed) South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Working Group. Available online at Assessed 15 May 2009
  40. Sklar FH, McVoy C, Van Zee R, Gawlik DE, Tarboton K, Rudnick D, Miao S, Armentano T (2001a) The effects of altered hydrology on the Everglades. In: Porter JW, Porter KG (eds) The Everglades, Florida Bay and Coral reefs of the Florida Keys: an ecosystem sourcebook. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 39–82Google Scholar
  41. Sklar FH, Fitz HC, Wu Y, Van Zee R, McVoy C (2001b) The design of ecological landscape models for Everglades restoration. Ecological Economics 37:379–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tabb D (1990) Hydroperiod conditions of key environmental indicators of Everglades National Park and adjacent east Everglades area as guide to selection of an optimum water plan for Everglades National Park, Florida. Tropical BioIndustries, Inc., MiamiGoogle Scholar
  43. Templet PH, Meyer-Arendt KJ (1988) Louisiana wetland loss: a regional water management approach to the problem. Environmental management 12:181–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tsihrintzis VA (2001) Discussion of Wu et al., 1999. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering 127:241–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (U.S. ACE) (1999) Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Available online at
  46. Variano EA, Ho DT, Engel VC, Schmieder PJ, Reid MC (2009) Flow and mixing dynamics in a patterned wetland: kilometer-scale tracer releases in the Everglades. Water Resources Research 45:W08422. doi: 10.1029/2008WR007216 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Voinov AA, Fitz HC, Costanza R (1998) Surface water flow in landscape models: 1. Everglades case study. Ecological Modelling 108:131–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. White JR, Reddy KR, Moustafa MZ (2004) Influence of hydrologic regime and vegetation on phosphorus retention in Everglades stormwater treatment area wetlands. Hydrological processes 18:343–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wilson CAME (2007) Flow resistance models for flexible submerged vegetation. Journal of Hydrology 342:213–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wu Y, Wang N, Rutchey K (2006) An analysis of spatial complexity of ridge and slough patterns in the Everglades ecosystem. Ecological Complexity 3:183–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guoqing He
    • 1
    • 2
  • Victor Engel
    • 3
  • Lynn Leonard
    • 4
  • Alex Croft
    • 4
  • Daniel Childers
    • 5
  • Michael Laas
    • 2
  • Yang Deng
    • 2
    • 6
  • Helena M. Solo-Gabriele
    • 2
  1. 1.College of Civil Engineering and ArchitectureZhejiang UniversityZhejiangChina
  2. 2.Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA
  3. 3.South Florida Natural Resources CenterHomesteadUSA
  4. 4.Department of Geography and GeologyUniversity of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmingtonUSA
  5. 5.Global Institute of Sustainability & School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  6. 6.Department of Civil Engineering and SurveyingUniversity of Puerto RicoMayaguezPuerto Rico

Personalised recommendations