Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
REVIEW

Using palaeoecological and palaeoenvironmental records to guide restoration, conservation and adaptive management of Ramsar freshwater wetlands: lessons from the Everglades, USA

Melanie Ann Riedinger-Whitmore

Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Florida St Petersburg, St Petersburg, FL 33701, USA. Email: mariedin@usfsp.edu

Marine and Freshwater Research 67(6) 707-720 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF14319
Submitted: 11 October 2014  Accepted: 20 March 2015   Published: 25 September 2015

Abstract

The Everglades, the largest Ramsar wetland in the USA, is a spatially complex mosaic of freshwater habitats heavily impacted by agriculture, urban land use, and efforts to manage water resources in southern Florida. Restoration and conservation of these habitats is challenging because they experience different threats, and require different water levels, hydroperiods and disturbances. Historically, Everglades hydrology was maintained by seasonal precipitation and surface-water flows, but was significantly altered in the 20th century to foster agriculture and urban growth. Everglades palaeoecological and palaeoenvironmental studies provide opportunities to examine spatial and temporal variability in wetland conditions, and document past climate and anthropogenic influences on plant succession and habitat persistence since the mid-Holocene.

This paper summarises key Everglades palaeoecological and palaeoenvironmental research, and highlights lessons learned about the evolution of the ecosystem, historical variability, and natural and anthropogenic influences. These lessons have been used in defining reference conditions and community targets in current efforts to restore the Everglades. Palaeoenvironmental and palaeoecological studies enhance our understanding about properties that define and contribute to the ecological character of wetlands, and they can identify criteria that are important for restoration and conservation projects in Ramsar-listed wetlands.

Additional keywords: ecological character, palaeoecology, palaeoenvironment.


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