Tree islands next door

Slash pine marks the high ground of Big Cypress Swamp.

What’s the equivalent next door in the Everglades?

Water-animated diagram of major habitats of the Everglades

That would be the tree islands.

As shown in the diagram below, the tree islands of The Glades and the slash pine of The Big Cypress are perched at approximately the same height relative to the natural rise and fall of the water table. Neither sees water within their realm, if at all, until the very peak of the summer-fall wet season.

The glades isn’t so much deeper …
as in total percentage it has more deep area

Tree islands are different in other ways:

For one, they comprise a much smaller percentage of the total landscape (less than five percent) in comparison to the approximate twenty percent of the Big Cypress Swamp which is comprised of pinelands.

Two, tree islands are also surrounded by deeper water.

The vast majority of the Everglades is slough and ridge. Stepping off a tree island will land you in a knee deep slough whereas as similar step from the slash pines islands of The Big Cypress will put you in shin deep (or even dry) marl prairie instead.

September stage in Shark Slough is down compared to last year

Caveat:

At least that’s usually the case.

Water levels are running low this summer in Everglades Nat’l Park. This is usually the time of year when waters are encroaching at the perimeters of the tree islands. Instead – thanks to a deficit of rain and the closed gates upstream, water stage is a good half foot below that level.

Compare that to the Big Cypress Swamp where the wetting front rose into the pines a good month ago.

Here’s the full hydrologic history going back to the 1950s.

Do you see how this fall’s peak is down
relative to the period from 1995 to 2005?

Why?

For one, it’s been rainier … plus we don’t rely on gates.

Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve is largely a rain-driven watershed.

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