Plant decomposition in wetlands: effects of hydrologic variation in a re-created everglades

J Environ Qual. Mar-Apr 2013;42(2):562-72. doi: 10.2134/jeq2012.0201.


The effects of water depth and flow on marsh plant litter decomposition and soil chemistry were measured in the Loxahatchee Impoundment Landscape Assessment (LILA) facility (Boynton Beach, FL), where macrocosms mimic Everglades ridge-and-slough landscape features. Experiments were conducted in two macrocosms that differed in flow but had ridge, shallow slough, and deep slough habitats that differed in water depth. Decomposition of three common Everglades species, Crantz, Torr., and Aiton, were measured using litter bags incubated in the macrocosms under both wet and dry conditions. Litter decomposition was similar among flow treatments and habitats but differed by species and between wet and dry conditions. Decomposition rates from fastest to slowest were > > litter had more total P than the other two species, confirming the importance of P availability in controlling decomposition in the Everglades. Planted species had no effect on soil nutrient content during the ~4 yr of plant growth. Average water velocities of ~0.5 cm s attained in the flow treatment had no effect on decomposition or soil chemistry. The plant species used in this study are major contributors to Everglades' organic soils, so their decomposition rates can be used to parameterize models for how restoration manipulations will affect soil-building processes and to predict the temporal sequence of landscape responses to these manipulations. The results suggest that longer periods and flows greater than studied here may be necessary to see restoration effects on soil building processes.

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem*
  • Environment
  • Plant Leaves / chemistry
  • Plants
  • Soil
  • Wetlands*


  • Soil