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publications > paper > PP 1011 > ecosystems > freshwater and terrestrial > sawgrass marsh
Ecosystems of south Florida
Freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems
Sawgrass marsh usually occurs on land slightly higher than that of the sloughs and wet prairies but lower than that of bay heads and hardwood hammocks. Water inundates the marsh for varying periods during the year to depths ranging from a few inches to several feet; optimum inundation period is in the order of months. Soils differ, ranging from a thick peat to a thin veneer of marl over limestone.
Severity of fire is a major factor in the sawgrass marsh. Sawgrass often burns during the dry season, but the roots remain protected by moist soil; this type of fire serves to prune trees and brush from the sawgrass. In severe droughts, however, sawgrass roots may be burned and the community destroyed.
Approximately 200,000 ha (500,000 acres) of sawgrass have been destroyed, mainly in the northern Everglades (Birnhak and Crowder, 1974). The remaining sawgrass communities have been affected in varying degrees. Davis (1943) observed thinning of sawgrass in the northern Everglades which he attributed to drainage and subsequent soil subsidence and severe fires. Craighead (1971) reported that after severe fires, willow colonized large areas south of U.S. Highway 41 that were originally pure sawgrass stands.
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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Last updated: 04 September, 2013 @ 02:04 PM (KP)
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