In this study we were able to provide the first estimates of transition probabilities of wet prairie and slough vegetative communities in Water Conservation Area 3A (WCA3A) of the Florida Everglades and to identify the hydrologic variables that determine these transitions. These estimates can be used in management models aimed at restoring proportions of wet prairie and slough habitats to historical levels in the Everglades. To determine what was driving the transitions between wet prairie and slough communities we evaluated three hypotheses: seasonality, impoundment, and wet and dry year cycles using likelihood-based multistate models to determine the main driver of wet prairie conversion in WCA3A. The most parsimonious model included the effect of wet and dry year cycles on vegetative community conversions. Several ecologists have noted wet prairie conversion in southern WCA3A but these are the first estimates of transition probabilities among these community types. In addition, to being useful for management of the Everglades we believe that our framework can be used to address management questions in other ecosystems.
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Vol. 29 • No. 4