Periphyton responses to eutrophication in the Florida Everglades: Cross-system patterns of structural and compositional change

Gaiser, Evelyn E., Daniel L. Childers, Ronald D. Jones, Jennifer H. Richards, Leonard J. Scinto, Joel C. Trexler

Limnol. Oceanogr., 51(1_part_2), 2006, 617-630 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2006.51.1_part_2.0617

ABSTRACT: We examined periphyton along transects in five Everglades marshes and related compositional and functional aspects to phosphorus (P) gradients caused by enriched inflows. Results were compared to those of a P-addition experiment in a pristine Everglades marsh. While the water total P (TP) concentration was not related to P load in the marshes or experiment, the concentration of TP in periphyton was strongly correlated with the distance from the P source. Increased P concentration in periphyton was associated with a loss of biomass, particularly of the calcifying mat-forming matrix, regardless of the growth form of the periphyton (epiphytic, floating, or epilithic). Diatom species composition was also strongly related to P availability, but the TP optima of many species varied among marshes. Enriched periphyton communities were found 14 km downstream of P inputs to one marsh that has been receiving enhanced P loads for decades, where other studies using different biotic indicators show negligible change in the same marsh. Although recovery trajectories are unknown, periphyton indicators should serve as excellent metrics for the progression or amelioration of P-related effects in the Everglades.

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