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Causes of landscape change

Summary
Background
Introduction
Causes of change
Evidence of change
Formation & Maintenance
Ecological impacts
Recommendations
Performance measure
Acknowledgements
References
Based on these observations, it is apparent that: 1) the Everglades ridge and slough landscape has changed, and is continuing to change significantly; and 2) the landscape changes are having detrimental ecological effects on Everglades plants and animals. It is likely that these changes are the result of altered water flow caused by human-made barriers and shunts, interacting with corresponding changes in water depth and water level fluctuations. These observations can be broken down further, and are discussed in detail in the remainder of this paper:
  1. The ridge and slough landscape originally formed, under natural pre-drainage conditions, a continuous, directional, and patterned wetland mosaic.
  2. Flow occurred over the full width of this directional, patterned, wetland.
  3. The vegetation patterns of this landscape were influenced by water flow, water depth, and hydroperiod differences and their interactions with topographic variations in the peat surface.
  4. The original ridge and slough pattern has degraded to varying but substantial degrees throughout the landscape.
  5. The type of pattern degradation observed cannot be explained on the basis of altered water depths (or hydroperiods) alone – a change in directional, flow-related processes also must be implicated.
  6. Preservation of the ridge and slough pattern and potential restoration of degraded patterns require water movement across the landscape and in the original direction of flow.
  7. Conversion of ridge and slough habitat to a uniform, closed landscape of dense sawgrass is having significant, deleterious impacts on the ecology of Everglades plants and animals, including restrictions on dispersal and available habitat for aquatic animals, and limitations on foraging by wading birds and other top predators.
  8. If not reversed through restoration of flow, it is possible that the landscape endpoint suggested by current trends would be a uniform, closed landscape of sawgrass.



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