Morphometric and hydrologic characteristics of alligator holes in Everglades National Park, Florida from 1994 to 2007

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Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) holes are a key feature in the Everglades landscape providing aquatic refuge for alligators and other aquatic organisms. The morphology of the hole as well as its location in the landscape may influence its function as an aquatic refugium. Morphologic and hydrologic characteristics and dynamics of 50 alligator holes in Everglades National Park, Florida were examined based on 1-m resolution digital images and field measurements from 1994 to 2007. Major morphometric parameters of alligator holes calculated for the study area included surface area, diameter, major axis orientation, basin depth, and circularity index. We used basin depth along with surface water modelling from the Everglades Depth Estimation Network to describe alligator hole hydroperiod and examine relationships among morphologic features, habitat, and hydrology. Alligator holes in this study were similar morphologically (pond surface area, basin depth, and sediment depth) among locations and habitats, and for the most part over time with the exception of holes in the Rocky glades. Alligator holes with greater surface area were not necessarily deeper holes. Hole hydroperiod was not correlated with surface area, and larger holes did not dry out less frequently than smaller holes. Although marsh hydroperiods varied by location and habitat, alligator hole hydroperiod did not, illustrating that across the landscape alligator holes provide aquatic refugia under a range of hydrologic conditions. Published in 2012. This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

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