Restoring Tree Islands in the Everglades: Experimental Studies of Tree Seedling Survival and Growth


Address correspondence to A. G. van der Valk, email


In May 2004, 400 tree seedlings of seven different species found on tree islands in the Florida Everglades were planted at different elevations along five transects on eight newly constructed tree islands, four with and four without limestone cores. Seedlings suffered between 40 and 85% mortality during the first 120 days, the period with the lowest water levels. Ilex cassine L., Salix caroliniana Michx., Chrysobalanus icaco L., and Annona glabra had the highest number of surviving seedlings, whereas Magnolia virginiana L., Myrica cerifera L., and Acer rubrum L. had the fewest. During the remainder of the study, water levels were mostly higher and sometimes covered the entire islands for months at a time. After 220 days, nearly all seedlings of M. virginiana and My. cerifera had died. At the end of the study, seedlings of I. cassine and A. glabra had the highest survivorship rates. Seedling biomass of C. icaco and I. cassine was greatest at the highest elevations, whereas seedlings of A. glabra had similar biomass at all elevations. Seedling survivorship was not statistically different between islands with and without limestone cores; however, when seedlings of all species were combined, island core type was significantly different for aboveground biomass, seedling height, and canopy width. Because of the higher survivorship under both low and high water conditions, A. glabra, I. cassine, and S. caroliniana are the most suitable species for establishing tree species on restored tree islands in the Everglades.