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INFLUENCE OF THE EL NIÑO SOUTHERN OSCILLATION ON FIRE REGIMES IN THE FLORIDA EVERGLADES

Authors

  • Brian Beckage,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803 USA
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    • Present address: Botany Department, Marsh Life Science Building, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont 05405. E-mail: bbeckage@uvm.edu

  • William J. Platt,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803 USA
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  • Matthew G. Slocum,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803 USA
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    • Present address: Wetland Biogeochemistry and Coastal Institute, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803 USA

  • Bob Panko

    1. Everglades National Park, 40001 State Route 9336, Homestead, Florida 33034 USA
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  • Corresponding Editor: K. D. Woods

Abstract

Disturbances that are strongly linked to global climatic cycles may occur in a regular, predictable manner that affects composition and distribution of ecological communities. The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) influences worldwide precipitation patterns and has occurred with regular periodicity over the last 130 000 years. We hypothesized that ENSO, through effects on local weather conditions, has influenced frequency and extent of fires within Everglades National Park (Florida, USA). Using data from 1948 to 1999, we found that the La Niña phase of ENSO was associated with decreased dry-season rainfall, lowered surface water levels, increased lightning strikes, more fires, and larger areas burned. In contrast, the El Niño phase was associated with increased dry-season rainfall, raised surface water levels, decreased lightning strikes, fewer fires, and smaller areas burned. Shifts between ENSO phases every few years have likely influenced vegetation through periodic large-scale fires, resulting in a prevalence of fire-influenced communities in the Everglades landscape.

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