Hydrologic restoration in a dynamic subtropical mangrove-to-marsh ecotone

Rebecca J. Howard*, Richard H. Day, Ken W. Krauss, Andrew S. From, Larry Allain, Nicole Cormier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Extensive hydrologic modifications in coastal regions across the world have occurred to support infrastructure development, altering the function of many coastal wetlands. Wetland restoration success is dependent on the existence of hydrologic regimes that support development of appropriate soils and the growth and persistence of wetland vegetation. In Florida, United States, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP) seeks to restore, protect, and preserve water resources of the greater Everglades region. Herein we describe vegetation dynamics in a mangrove-to-marsh ecotone within the impact area of a CERP hydrologic restoration project currently under development. Vegetation communities are also described for a similar area outside the project area. We found that vegetation shifts within the impact area occurred over a 7-year period; cover of herbaceous species varied by location, and an 88% increase in the total number of mangrove seedlings was documented. We attribute these shifts to the existing modified hydrologic regime, which is characterized by a low volume of freshwater sheet flow compared with historical conditions (i.e. before modification), as well as increased tidal influence. We also identified a significant trend of decreasing soil surface elevation at the impact area. The CERP restoration project is designed to increase freshwater sheet flow to the impact area. Information from our study characterizing existing vegetation dynamics prior to implementation of the restoration project is required to allow documentation of long-term project effects on plant community composition and structure within a framework of background variation, thereby allowing assessment of the project's success in restoring critical ecosystem functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-482
Number of pages12
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • coastal marsh
  • hydrology
  • mangrove forest expansion
  • plant species composition
  • transition zone


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