In geologic terms, the Everglades is young, only having formed within the last 5000 years. Rich black soil began forming and accumulating wherever sawgrass became the dominant vegetation. The black color is from charcoal from frequent lightning-caused fires. Sawgrass marsh is by far the most prevalent natural community on Holey Land.

Western Levee Forest

Few natural tree islands remain in the area.  In the early 1970s, 54 artificial islands were constructed to improve deer habitat.

Drainage, drought, and decreased hydroperiod (amount of time water covers the land) have caused loss of organic soils in the Holey Land WMA as well as in other parts of the Everglades. Under natural wet conditions, the bacteria living in the remains of the plant cannot get enough oxygen to completely decompose the plant material, and organic soil accumulates. When the water is removed, so is the barrier between oxygen in the air and bacteria in the soil. As a result, the bacteria now become extremely active and in essence consume the soil. In The Everglades: An Environmental History, David McCally reports that at one site in the Everglades, 6.8 feet of soil was lost between 1912 and 1950. Dry organic soils, which burn easily and rapidly, are further lost through fire.

Portions of Holey Land have experienced an explosion of cattail growth since water levels were restored in 1991. Cattails often replace sawgrass in areas where water is high in nutrients. Agricultural runoff is generally the source of increased nutrients in the Everglades. The extent of willow shrub has been reduced as a result of higher water levels.


See  Major Natural Communities.




South Florida 
Water Management District
- Cattails

The Commission conducts annual surveys to determine the extent of cattail in the area and works with state and federal agencies to improve the quantity and quality of water deliveries.  Cattail coverage has decreased over the past decade due to better management of water levels.  Although a native species, cattails choke out open-water habitat vital to alligators, wading birds, and waterfowl.

Prescribed burning and treatment of exotic vegetation are also important management strategies used to improve wildlife habitat in Holey Land WMA.

FWC Facts:
The song of the wood thrush is so beautiful it inspired Handel to write a piece of music in the bird's honor. This songbird sings a loud, flute-like song, ending in a trill.

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