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Everglades


The Everglades is an incredible place.  I have gone there at least 40 times if not more.  It is always nice to get out of the city and see the wild.  The 'Glades consist of pinelands and hammocks along the rock ridge.  The rock ridge is a coral lime outcropping about 1-2 m higher than the surrounding areas.  As a result of this increase in elevation, the rock ridge is covered forest community types and not marsh.  Hammocks are relatively dense tropical hardwood forests that are predominately evergreen.  They are never flooded and seldom burn.  Pinelands are open solely pine forests with a sparse understory.  They are partially flooded during the wet season (summer) and have much less so soil than the hammocks (0-10cm soil depth).  Hiking in the pinelands can be treacherous because the coral is sharp and jagged and numerous sink holes exist.  The pines are fire-tolerant land require fire to keep the hammock from invading.

pineland
hammock
pineland & hammock
These pictures show the hammock pushing up against the pinelands.  Hammock trees will encroach into the pineland, but they die from the frequent ground fires that move through the pinelands. It fire is suppressed, pinelands will slowly be converted into hammocks.

Sawgrass and tree islands

The other two vegetation types in the sloughs are the sawgrass marsh and tree islands.  The nutrient-poor sloughs are ideal for sawgrass, which is only invaded by exotic cattails if the phosphorus concentration increases.  Unfortunately the parts of the Everglades close to the agricultural areas are now cattail marshes instead of the native sawgrass.

Tree islands are hardwood hammocks not unlike the hammocks on the rock ridge.  The tree islands are slightly higher elevational points (1m), which is conducive to tree growth.  Small seedlings begin to grow and organic matter from decaying leaves builds up the tree island more, so that more tree can grow.  Eventually a small island of trees is created in a sea of sawgrass.

tree islands
tree island
sawgrass
sawgrass
airboat
This is our means of transportation when the water level is high enough pass over the grass in the avenues.  During the dry season we go to the tree islands on foot.  It is not that bad, except that we ware walking a long distance in alligator territory and in mucky water.  The water is only ankle to knee deep with a few deep spots.  Of course, the only way to tell where the deep places is to fall in them.

sawgrass
airboat
Top: Inside a tree island.  The edges of the tree islands are like a marsh with a more typical hammock in the middle.

Bottom: Going to the middle of the tree island is not easy.  The water can be deep and the mud is always deep.  Fortunately I have waders in the winter.  In summers, the water is too deep and weather to hot for waders, so I just go in pants and get entirely black with muck.

gators
gators
During the dry season (winter and spring), most of the sawgrass is dry.  Most of the water is in alligator holes (perennial ponds), so all the alligators and most other wildlife head to these water sources until the rains come in the summer.  I have seen more than 100 alligators in some ponds.
   
pink flower
pineland

pineland
 
pineland & hammock
pineland
pineland
Typical pinelands with slash pine (Pinus elliota var. densa) as the sole overstory species with mostly palmettos, grass, and few small tree species in the understory.

tree islands
tree islands
tree island
tree island
Here you can see the sea of sawgrass and islands of trees.

tree island
Note the shape of this tree island.  The island is largest in width and highest on the left and tapers to a point in elevation and width on the right.  The island is rain drop-shaped because of the way the water flows around it.  The Everglades is a slow moving body of water from 20-100 cm deep that flows from the north to the south to south southwest direction.  The islands face north and the tail is to the south.

sawgrass
sawgrass
sawgrass
Sawgrass is from 1-3m tall.  At times, sawgrass will be nearly as tall as the airboat.


Inside a hammock
inside a hammock
hammock
hammock field work
Top and middle: Inside the hammock can be rather dense.  Luckily there are paths through some of them such as this one where we do fieldwork (bottom).

  
snickers commercial
See even gators love snickers bars (This should be a snickers commercial).

gray catbird
Gray catbird lurching in the bushes.

yellow flowers