Effects of Hydrologic Changes and Precipitation on Tree Island Fire Frequency in the Everglades, Florida

Katie Laux

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Abstract

This thesis documents a 100-year history of fire in Water Conservation Area 2A (WCA-2A) in the Florida Everglades. Natural fire frequency in this area is not fully understood, and because the region has undergone dramatic anthropogenic changes since the early 1900s due to drainage, it is important to understand how fire frequency has been affected by drainage in order to properly plan restoration activities. Sediment cores taken from tree islands in WCA-2A were processed and examined microscopically for the presence of charcoal. Charcoal concentrations were compared to drainage and precipitation data to determine the impact of these factors on historical fires of the Everglades area. Charcoal records showed an increased fire activity since significant drainage began in the early 1900s, supporting the idea that drainage activities throughout the past century had an influence on fire frequency. Charcoal records from the study area failed to provide conclusive evidence that precipitation played a major role in fire activity in WCA-2A. Results of the study indicate that anthropogenic changes has a greater impact on fire within the study area than precipitation.