Assessing Impacts of Hydropattern Restoration of an Overdrained Wetland on Soil Nutrients, Vegetation and Fire


Address correspondence to J. A. Leeds, email


Restoring hydrology to overdrained wetlands can facilitate restoration of degraded ecosystems. In the northern Everglades, the Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area (RWMA) became a rain-driven system as historic overland inflows were redirected. Consequently, the soil experienced severe drying, resulting in frequent muck fires, oxidation and a shift in vegetation composition. In July 2001, the RWMA hydropattern restoration began utilizing discharge from Stormwater Treatment Area 5 (STA-5), a constructed wetland. As a result, predischarge hydroperiods averaging 124 days increased to an average of 183 days. Soil total phosphorus (TP) concentrations in the topsoil layer did not significantly change from predischarge (637 mg/kg) to postdischarge (633 mg/kg) concentrations. Muck fires appear to be the catalyst for rapid alterations in the bioavailability and solubility of P. Prior to muck fires, soil P pools were 88% organic P and 12% inorganic P, shifting to 49% organic P and 51% inorganic P measured after a muck fire. Sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense, OBL) and Cattail (Typha domingensis, OBL) cover approximately 75% of the RWMA area as dominant or codominant species. Predischarge vegetation community composition documented obligate (OBL) and facultative wetland (FACW) species, each composing 46% of all species surveyed. Postdischarge vegetation compositions shifted to 59% OBL and 39% FACW species. In addition, there were significant elevations in tissue nutrient concentrations, TP, and total nitrogen, between pre- and postdischarge samples. An adaptive management approach to inflow and outflow operations will be an important part of successful wetland restoration.