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PREFACE Within the Florida Everglades, tree islands, which cover only a small percentofthis ecosystem, historically have provided essential habitat for a wide variety ofterrestrial and amphibious plants, birds, and animals. These tree islands, however, have been one ofits least studied features. Because of their less flood tolerant vegetation, tree islands are one ofthe most sensitive components ofthe Everglades to changes in hydrology, and many tree islands have been lost during periods when water levels have been abnormally high or low. Their sensitivity to water level changes makes tree islands potentially one ofthe best and surest measures ofthe overall hydrologic health of the Everglades. Consequently, the maintenance of healthy, functioning tree islands and the restoration ofthose that have been lost will be an important performance measures that will be used tojudge the success ofthe Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). A symposium, Tree Islands ofthe Everglades, was held on July 14 and 15, 1998 at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida. It was sponsored by Florida Center for Environmental Studies and the South Florida WaterManagement District. This was the first scientific meeting ever devoted to tree islands. The organizers of this symposium were Drs. Arnold van der Valk, Florida Center for Environmental Studies and Iowa State University, Fred Sklar, South Florida Water Management District, and Wiley Kitchens, United States Geological Survey.
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"Tree Islands of the Everglades" brings together for the first time experts in anthropology, ecology, geology, paleontology, wildlife, and landscape modelling to review the state of our understanding of the small, forested islands that are a feature of most large wetlands. Although tree islands can be found in wetlands around the world, only in the Florida Everglades have their unique and complex origins, structure, and functions been investigated. Although these biodiversity hotspots are important to the survival of many plants and animals in the Everglades, most of them have been lost since the 1940s as a result of poor water management. Consequently, the restoration of tree islands will be a key performance measure for the success of the ongoing Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. "Tree Islands of the Everglades" reviews the geologic origin of different kinds of tree islands and presents competing hypotheses about their subsequent development. It also describes their vegetation and factors controlling the composition of their vegetation, their fauna, their unique geochemistry, and their use by Native Americans.Throughout, the importance of recurring wet years (intensive flooding) and dry years (frequent fires) are emphasized for understanding changes in tree island flora and fauna. Although they have received very little attention tree islands in The Everglades and other comparable wetlands around the world are a key feature of these wetlands and understanding the status or health of tree islands is central to understanding their overall condition.
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