Freshwater Wetlands

By Ethan Freid, PhD
Botanist, Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve

Sabal palmetto Woodland Alliance

Invasive dominated

Annona glabra Forest/Woodland Alliance

Bucida spinosa/Mariscus jamaicense Woodland Alliance

Cladium mariscus/Eleocharis cellulosa Alliance

Eleocharis cellulose/Sagittaria lanceolata Alliance

Typha domingensis Alliance

Continuous year-round freshwater wetlands are typified by having standing water to wet soil at some level year round. This allows a number of species, such as Nymphaea sp. and Utricularia sp., to survive, as well as trees such as Annona glabra (Pond Apple) that can live with their roots submerged.

These areas can have up to 25 – 50 cm of standing water during the wet season and, even at the peak of the dry season have saturated soils and pockets of standing water.  Pocket wetlands can occur in low-lying areas around the edges of small blue holes or seeps. In the surrounding Dry Broadleaf Evergreen Formation – Forests, there is often a high abundance of orchids and bromeliads.

Near Human Altered areas many of these continuous wetlands become eutrophied and fill in with Typha domingensis (Cat Tails).

On the west side of Andros and in areas of Abaco and Grand Bahama, there is a zone of wetland that transitions from full fresh water to mangrove systems over an extended zone. This area has been referred to as “swash.” There used to be significant areas of this system in New Providence, but it has been converted to Human Altered in most areas. It also occurs in limited forms and areas on the central and southern islands. These areas are dominated by members of the Cyperaceae; predominantly Cladium mariscus (Saw Grass) and Eleocharis cellulosa (Spike Rush).

Within this zone, the standing fresh water is 10 – 25 cm in depth and gradually becomes more saline closer to the island’s coastal zones. Within these areas, there are often isolated mangrove islands and then typically a transition to a mangrove shrubland or dwarf shrubland as the system becomes more marinely influenced.

Ephemeral Freshwater Wetlands occur throughout the entire archipelago, ranging from extensive areas covering hundreds of acres to small pockets in low-lying areas.  Sabal palmetto may often occur in these areas.  An extensive array of herbaceous species can rapidly grow during the wet season and then die back in the dry period of the year.  These areas can experience fires once this layer is dry. As a cryptic species, Echinodermus berteroi (Burr Head), an annual to short-lived perennial, can appear in years where there is sufficient rainfall to create standing water for a month than two months at a time.

Ephemeral Freshwater Wetlands in areas near Human Altered environments often have non-native invasive species (especially in the northern islands) such as Casuarina sp. (Australian Pine), Schinus terebinthifolia (Brazilian Pepper), Melaleuca quinquenervia (Paper Bark Tree) and/or Terminalia catapa (West Indian Almond).

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