Cypress swamps are strongly dominated by either bald cypress or pond cypress, with very low numbers of scattered black gum, red maple, and sweetbay. These regularly inundated wetlands form a forested border along large rivers, creeks, and lakes, or occur in depressions as circular domes or linear strands. Understory and ground cover are usually sparse due to frequent flooding but sometimes include such species as buttonbush, lizard's-tail, and various ferns.
This conservation asset includes Cypress, Tupelo, Isolated Freshwater Swamp, Strand Swamp, and Floodplain Swamp.
Cypress swamp is expected to have only minimal impacts (6%) from 1 m of sea level rise, but could have up to 26% of the current area inundated by 3 m of sea level rise. Some species, such as bald cypress have some tolerance to increased saltwater inundation and may persist longer than other species found within this community; however, with longer durations and more frequent inundations, even these species will not persist. An increase in flooding or longer wet periods (permanent standing water) may adversely impact cypress and tupelo growth, as these species require some dry periods for seedling growth.
Decreased precipitation coupled with increased temperature will likely alter species composition and increase fragmentation of larger systems. Decreases in water quantity and quality will stress the system and cause degradation.
Increased precipitation and floods will cause increased run-off, erosion, siltation, and pollutants, all contributing to habitat degradation and loss. In some circumstances these impacts could cause decreased reproductive success, increased stress and increased mortality.
Fire is essential for maintaining the structure and species composition of cypress dome swamps, with reduced periodic fires cypress could become less dominant as hardwood species increase. Drier conditions could lead to catastrophic wildfires, burning the muck fuels and killing the cypress trees, which can lead to the swamp transforming into a pond, wet prairie or shrub bog.
Cypress swamps provide important roosting sites for wading birds such as white ibis and wood stork. Alterations of structure of these swamps due to changes in precipitation patterns could result in a loss of suitable roosting sites.
Reduced fire would cause understory vegetation to grow and lead to the habitat becoming unsuitable for Big Cypress fox squirrels, which is a primarily ground-dwelling species that needs a more open understory. Additionally, the Big Cypress fox squirrel would be impacted by changes in the plant composition if there was a reduction in hard and soft mast producing species.
For species whose reproductive cycle is linked to wet/dry cycles, changes in the timing and amount of precipitation could affect these life cycle events, potentially causing mismatches of phenological processes, leading to reduced reproductive success, reduced recruitment and increased mortality.