Vegetation differentiation in the patterned landscape of the central Everglades: Importance of local and landscape drivers

Thomas J. Givnish, John C. Volin, V. Dianne Owen, Valeria C. Volin, Jordan D. Muss, Paul H. Glaser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Aim: We present a model to account for self-assembly of the slough-ridge-tree island patterned landscape of the central Everglades in southern Florida via feedbacks among landforms, hydrology, vegetation and biogeochemistry. We test aspects of this model by analysing vegetation composition in relation to local and landscape-level drivers. Location: We quantified vegetation composition and environmental characteristics in central Water Conservation Area (WCA) 3A, southern WCA-3A and southern WCA-3B in southern Florida, based on their divergence in water management and flow regimes over the past 50 years. Methods: In 562 quadrats, we estimated species coverages and quantifiedmaximum, minimum and average water depth, soil depth to bedrock, normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and proximity to the nearest tree island. We used non-metric multi-dimensional scaling (NMS) to relate compositional variation to local and landscape-level factors, and evaluated environmental differences among eight a priori vegetation types via anova. Results: Water depth and hydroperiod decreased from sloughs to ridges to tree islands, but regions also differed significantly in the abundance of several community types and the hydroregimes characterizing them. NMS revealed two significant axes of compositional variation, tied to local gradients of water depth and correlated factors, and to a landscape-scale gradient of proximity to tall tree islands. Sawgrass height and soil thickness increased toward higher ridges, and NDVI was greatest on tree islands. Main conclusions: This study supports four components of our model: positive feedback of local substrate height on itself, woody plant invasion and subsequent P transport and concentration by top predators nesting on taller tree islands, compositional shifts in sites close to tree islands due to nutrient leakage, and flow-induced feedback against total raised area. Regional divergence in the relationship of community types to current hydroregimes appears to reflect a lag of a few years after shifts in water management; a longer lag would be expected for shifts in landscape patterning. Both local and landscape-level drivers appear to shape vegetation composition and soil thickness in the central Everglades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-402
Number of pages19
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2008


  • Cladium jamaicense
  • Florida
  • Landscape ecology
  • Peatland
  • Peltandra virginica
  • Pontederia cordata
  • Sagittaria latifolia
  • Self-assembly
  • Spatially coupled feedbacks
  • Streamlined islands

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