The Everglades: North America's subtropical wetland
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. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
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