, Volume 34, Supplement 1, pp 91–100 | Cite as

Compositional Effects of Sea-Level Rise in a Patchy Landscape: The Dynamics of Tree Islands in the Southeastern Coastal Everglades

  • M. S. Ross
  • J. P. Sah
  • J. F. Meeder
  • P. L. Ruiz
  • G. Telesnicki
Hydrologic Restoration


The landscape structure of emergent wetlands in undeveloped portions of the southeastern coastal Everglades is comprised of two distinct components: scattered forest fragments, or tree islands, surrounded by a low matrix of marsh or shrub-dominated vegetation. Changes in the matrix, including the inland transgression of salt-tolerant mangroves and the recession of sawgrass marshes, have been attributed to the combination of sea level rise and reductions in fresh water supply. In this study we examined concurrent changes in the composition of the region’s tree islands over a period of almost three decades. No trend in species composition toward more salt-tolerant trees was observed anywhere, but species characteristic of freshwater swamps increased in forests in which fresh water supply was augmented. Tree islands in the coastal Everglades appear to be buffered from some of the short term effects of salt water intrusion, due to their ability to build soils above the surface of the surrounding wetlands, thus maintaining mesophytic conditions. However, the apparent resistance of tree islands to changes associated with sea level rise is likely to be a temporary stage, as continued salt water intrusion will eventually overwhelm the forests’ capacity to maintain fresh water in the rooting zone.


Southeast Saline Everglades Forest fragments Coastal landscape Salt water intrusion C-111 basin 



This publication was produced as part of a special issue devoted to investigating the ecological response of over 20 years of hydrologic restoration and active management in the Taylor Slough drainage of Everglades National Park. Support for this special issue was provided by; the Everglades National Park, the Southeast Environmental Research Center, the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program (National Science Foundation cooperative agreement #DBI-0620409), the Everglades Foundation and the South Florida Water Management District. We especially thank Janet Ley and the South Florida Water Management District for financial and logistical support, and Tom Armentano for assistance in the field work. This is SERC contribution no. 595.

Supplementary material

13157_2013_376_MOESM1_ESM.doc (50 kb)
ESM Appendix 1 (DOC 49 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. S. Ross
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. P. Sah
    • 1
  • J. F. Meeder
    • 3
  • P. L. Ruiz
    • 1
  • G. Telesnicki
    • 4
  1. 1.Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth and EnvironmentFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  3. 3.Allegheny CollegeMeadvilleUSA
  4. 4.Purdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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