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Florida Geological Survey - Geology Topics

Geology and Ecosystems


To understand the Everglades, one must first understand the rock."
... from The Everglades: River of Grass, by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, 1947

picture of a florida river and trees A knowledge of Earth Systems is necessary to understand how biological and non-biological components interact to create and sustain ecosystems. The solid earth aspects of earth systems are included in the science of geology, the atmospheric components reside with meteorology, and hydrogeology and hydrology cover the aqueous parts of our physical earth system.

Basic geologic knowledge of the physical characteristics of rocks and geologic processes has direct relevance to ecosystems. Rocks are the ultimate source of most nutrients in food chains. Weathering processes break down rocks into their constituent minerals and chemical components, forming soils and nutrients. Erosion and sediment transport processes then make them available to the biosphere. Most nutrients are then recycled many times through an ecosystem before losing their usefulness to the system.

The geologic structure of the stratigraphic formations of an area's rocks is a major factor in determining the landforms, or geomorphology, of that area. The structure and stratigraphy also influence surface and ground-water conditions, such as flow, recharge and discharge areas, and location and depth of aquifers and ambient water chemistry. Some geomorphic features can create very localized microclimates and restricted ecosystems; steephead ravines and sinkholes are two examples.

Last updated: November 10, 2014

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