Degrees of drought
How the swamp is simultaneously wet and dry

Drought in the swamp?

It almost sounds like a contradiction in terms.

audio introduction

But come every winter the water table (almost) reliably drops to the point, at some point in the spring, much of the swamp is bone dry.

Actually, the term “swamp” is a bit of a misnomer.

History of drought in Big Cypress National Preserve

A better way to describe the habitats of the Big Cypress is as a mosaic.

Cypress strands, domes and dwarf prairies probably come to mind first. But almost half of the Big Cypress is comprised of the slightly higher-ground of marl prairies, pinelands and (a little higher up still) hammocks. And even deeper than the cypress are the pond apple and pop ash forests, marshes, sloughs and deepest of all – the alligator pools.

Map showing current soil dryness levels

Not just a homogenous swamp, these habitats are mixed together in a distinctive pattern that is reflective of tiny topographic hills and valleys and the dual drivers of fire and flood.

Wildfire can occur any time in the swamp, at any season.

But it isn’t until the winter dry season, and in particularly deep spring dry downs, when wildfire can spread quickly and widely across the landscape.

Thus, the swamp is neither wet nor dry.

At all times and in all seasons, it is a combination of both.

Post script: To stay on top of drought conditions across the Everglades, visit the Drought Page in the Water Room where I’ll be updating the graphs by region weekly.

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