Mapping Soils in the Florida Everglades

Dan Florida, Soil, USDA-NRCS


During the South Florida sweltering heat this past August, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Soil Scientists Craig Prink and Martin Figueroa were out collecting soil samples in the Everglades in an effort to build a map that helps land managers understand resource concerns affecting the ecosystem, water quality and wildlife.

Martin said, “This is the first digital soil map developed in Florida, on the most important wetland, with the largest acreage in the nation. How can we restore the Everglades if we don’t know what we are restoring it to? The soil is the basis for everything.”

Soil mapping actually begins before even going outdoors. There’s a lot of work reviewing maps and researching the soil-forming factors of geology, elevation, topography and native vegetation. The information collected is vital to efforts to understand how to restore this unique ecosystem. Soil sampling confirms the effect of hydrology on the tree islands and the water holding capacity of the water conservation areas.

After taking 1,300 soil samples, in addition to assessing 600 samples provided by other state and federal agencies, Martin and Craig did finish mapping the water conservation areas and the results will be released in 2021. The Major Series or Soil Classes mapped are Buffalo Tiger, Loxahatchee, Shark Valley, Mack’s Camp, Cooper Town, and Gator Lake.

For more information about web soil surveys, local soil information, and developing long-range conservation plans, contact your local USDA Service Center.