Periphyton of the peatless plain

What makes a prairie a prairie …

And a slough a slough?

View from a tram along a marl prairie looking north in Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve

Both have the look of an endless sea of grass.

The diagram below sort of explains:

Marl prairies are perched higher on the water cycle ladder, therefore they hold water shallower and shorter: they are just as much dry as they are wet. Compare that to the Everglades’ lower-lying sloughs. They’re pretty much water logged all year round which is the building block on how they form peat. Dry down a slough too long and over time it sinks: peat oxidizes when exposed to air, a process which accelerates when a drought turns to flames.

You won’t find peat in the prairies of the swamp:

They rest on a bed of calcitic mud called marl instead.

Late-summer prairie or a slough of early spring?

Where is the water relative to each today?

In Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve, swamp stage has dropped a solid half foot below the marl prairie floor while just next door in Shark River its sloughs are still a good foot deep.

Or in other words, one’s good for walking but the other you’d need a boat.

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