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Ecohydrologic feedbacks controlling sizes of cypress wetlands in a patterned karst landscape

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Many landforms on Earth are profoundly influenced by biota. In particular, biota play a significant role in creating karst biogeomorphology, through biogenic CO 2 accelerating calcite weathering. In this study, we explore the ecohydrologic feedback mechanisms that have created isolated depressional wetlands on exposed limestone bedrock in South Florida – Big Cypress National Preserve –as a case study for karst biogeomorphic processes giving rise to regularly patterned landscapes. Specifically, we are interested in: (1) whether cypress depressions on the landscape have reached (or will reach) equilibrium size; (2) if so, what feedback mechanisms stabilize the size of depressions; and (3) what distal interactions among depressions give rise to the even distribution of depressions in the landscape. We hypothesize three feedback mechanisms controlling the evolution of depressions and build a numerical model to evaluate the relative importance of each mechanism. We show that a soil cover feedback (i.e. a smaller fraction of CO 2 reaches the bedrock surface for weathering as soil cover thickens) is the major feedback stabilizing depressions, followed by a biomass feedback (i.e. inhibited biomass growth with deepening standing water and extended inundation period as depressions expand in volume). Strong local positive feedback between the volume of depressions and rate of volume expansion and distal negative feedback between depressions competing for water likely lead to the regular patterning at the landscape scale. The individual depressions, however, are not yet in steady state but would be in ~0.2–0.4 million years. This represents the first study to demonstrate the decoupling of landscape-scale self-organization and the self-organization of its constituent agents. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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