Introduction & Background Information

Introduction & Background Information

The everglades Everglades are a unique and complex ecosystem made up of sloughs, marshes, hardwood hammocks, pine rocklands, sawgrass prairie, and mangroves, that provides an essential biological framework for half of the ecosystem in South Florida. However, the European settlers saw the everglades as a “wasteland” and they began the digging canals for drainage in early 1900s (Lecture note). This caused a silting problem in the area, and many scientists and conservationists started to advocate for the need of conservation of Everglades. Subsequently, in 1947, the Everglades National Park was established in order to protect its unique and enriched ecosystem from dredging and draining by the urban and agricultural development construction. (“History & Culture,” n.d.)

Anhinga Trail is the most popular trail at the Everglades National Park. It a 0.8 mile loop trail located at Royal Palm, where one can see an abundance of animal species in close distance. The trail got its name from a bird species, Anhinga, which nests around the trail. We went on this trail from 12:00 to 13:30, and explored Sawgrass Prairie and Freshwater Slough. The plant species we saw are; Sawgrass, Cattail, Strangler Fig, Morning Glory, Bonnet Lily, Horse Tail, Pickerelweed, Pond Apple, Sable Palmetto, Epiphyte, and Resurrection Fern. The animal species we saw are; Lubber Grasshopper, Boat-tailed Grackle, and some exotic fish species. (“Anhinga Trial,” n.d.).

Three-in-One Hiking Trial is a 0.5 mile loop trail located near the Long Pine Key Lake. It is named for the three ecosystems that visitors can explore; Pine Rockland, Freshwater Marsh, and Hardwood Hammock. One can look for colorful tree snails and

songbirds along the route, however, they should also look out for the uneven bare ground of limestone. From 13:50 to 3:20, we went on this trail and explored Pine Rockland and Hardwood Hammock. Most of us did not go in to the Freshwater Marsh as it was filled with water above the ankle height. The plant species we saw there are; Slash Pine, Sumac Berry, Saw Palmetto, Bracken Fern, Velvet Seed, Poison Tree, Devil Potato, Yellow Top, Hemp Weed, Ruellia, White Star Grass, and Bidens Albaalba. We also saw a great quantity of Periphyton at the edge of the lake. The animal species we saw are; Zebra Heliconian and Moon Snail. (“3-in-1,” n.d.)

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Ecosystem Description

During the trip, we explored the following ecosystems below:

1. Sawgrass Prairie

2. Freshwater Slough

3. Pine Rockland

4. Hardwood Hammock

1. Sawgrass Prairie

Sawgrass Prairie, also known as Sawgrass Marsh, is a wet habitat dominated by herbaceous plant species. The water flows slowly, creating a calm and peaceful atmosphere. The average hydroperiod is 10 months, and the water level is high during rainy season and low to zero during dry season. This habitat is not fire resistant and can get stress from extreme water level (too high or too low) . The major plants are sedge species like sawgrass and cattail, and periphyton. The major animals are insects like grasshopper and dragonflies, small fish, turtles, and bird species like Florida snail kite. There are water holes made by alligators, called “alligator holes” under the water, which are essential to the community around the area. (Sawgrass 3013L, n.d.)

2. Freshwater Slough Freshwater Slough is the deepest water habitat in the Everglades. Although it is the

main water flow of the Everglades, the current is slow and moves about 100 feet (30 meters) a day. The landscape is dotted with tree islands and sawgrass marshes. The hydroperiod is 11 months to continuous. During wet season, the water level goes up and the water goes into cypress prairie. During dry season, as anywhere else is dried up, animals gather around the slough for water, creating a peculiar situation where predators and prey live very close to each other. The biodiversity in slough is high, supporting many aquatic plants and fishes. The major plants are periphyton, bonnet lily, pickerel, and pond apple, and air plant species. The

major animals are alligators, turtles, heron, and fish species including multiple exotic ones. (“Ecosystem: Freshwater Slough,” n.d.)

3. Pine Rockland Pine Rockland is the highest and driest habitat in the South Florida ecosystem, and is

a critically endangered ecosystem found only in South Florida and the Bahamas. This is because of the high demand for the high and dry land, which is an ideal place for farm fields and housing. Also, many pine trees were cut down for timber for its dense and strong trunk. Pine Rockland was originally located all around South Florida before the development. However, it is now only located at Everglades National Park, Homestead, Kendall and the FIU Nature Preserve, the total of which is less than 2% of the original area. It is a fire climax community, and a lack of fire for more than 10 years may allow hammock to take over the land. There is no soil on the ground, and the surface is very rocky as limestones are exposed in places. (Lecture note)

Pine Rockland has the most diverse plant diversity in South Florida, including over 400 native species and 31 endemic species. The major plant species are pine tree, palm, fern, grass, and shrub. There is little shade due to extreme open canopy pine trees create. The major animal species are small mammal species, anole, snake, bird species like woodpecker, eagle and hawk, and big mammal species like Florida Panther, Florida Black Bear, and White-tail Deer. (Lecture note)

4. Rockland (Tropical Hardwood) Hammock Rockland Hammock is the climax community, which is the final stage of succession

in South Florida. It is located high on the ground of limestone, which prevents seasonal floods. It has a high humidity from the ground water throughout the year, which stops the fire

at the edge of the system. The soil on limestone surface is thin and is made of fallen leaves and branches. There are some holes on the ground, called “solution holes”, which are the result of acidic rain dissolution of limestone. Solution holes have a type of soil known as “peat,” which is rich in nutrients as it contains decomposed leaves and branches. (Lecture note)

Rockland Hammock is an evergreen broad-leaved forest and has high level of biodiversity richness and evenness. There are over 300 plant species and more than 150 tree/shrub species. Out of those, the major plant species are gumbo limbo, lysiloma tree, strangler fig, grass, fern, and air plant species such as orchid and bromeliad. The major animal species are snails, lizards, snakes, racoons, small birds, and owls. (Lecture note)

Flora and Fauna Pictures

Figure #1: The above photo is of a Sawgrass, Cladium jamaicense (photo by Hamaguchi). Sawgrass is a type of sedge plant with sharp teeth on the ridge, which can give you a cut when in contact. It can grow up to 10ft tall, however, the height depends on the nutrients level in soil. It spreads by rhizomes and spreads rapidly. You can find sawgrass in swamps, marshes, shores of water bodies, glades, and cypress prairie. (“Cladium Jamaicensejamaicense,” n.d. & Professor Koi)

Figure #2: The above photo is of a Pond Apple, Annona glabra (photo by Hamaguchi). Pond apple is a deciduous fruit tree that is hurricane and wind resistant. The fruit is round and green and has sour taste. It is pollinated by beetles and provides nesting place for birds and food sources for small mammals. You can find Pond Apple in swamps and sloughs. (“Annona glabra,” n.d.)