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Unique Nutrient Sources

FCE scientists discovered that, unlike in most coastal areas, the natural source of phosphorus (the nutrient that limits ecosystem productivity) for coastal Caribbean estuaries is seawater, not inland environments. This important finding has ramifications for both restoration and conservation and is informing decision making in coastal areas.

Childers, D.L., J.N. Boyer, S.E. Davis, C.J. Madden, D.T. Rudnick, F.H. Sklar. 2006. Relating precipitation and water management to nutrient concentration patterns in the oligotrophic "upside down" estuaries of the Florida Everglades. Limnology and Oceanography 51: 602-616.
Price, R.M., P.K. Swart, and J.W. Fourqurean. 2006. Coastal groundwater discharge - an additional source of phosphorus for the oligotrophic wetlands of the Everglades. Hydrobiologia 569: 23-36.
Rivera-Monroy, V.H., R.R. Twilley, D. Bone, D.L. Childers, C. Coronado-Molina, I.C. Feller, J.A. Herrerra-Silviera, R. Jaffe, J.E. Mancera, E. Rejmankova, J.E. Salisbury. 2004. A conceptual framework to develop long-term ecological research and management objectives in the wider Caribbean Region. BioScience 54: 843-856.
Daniel Childers
These two FCE research sites show the unexpected 'wedge of productivity' of mangrove forests in the Everglades. Marine sources of phosphorus enable mangrove forest canopy to reach 20m or more, as is seen in the image on the right, compared to the mangroves on the left that are growing several miles inland.
Robert Twilley (image on the left) and Stephen Davis (image on the right)
FCE scientists monitor total phosphorus concentrations in the water column in the mangrove ecotone. Their data suggest that sediment depositions after hurricanes, such as illustrated in the graph above, provide another source of marine phosphorous to the mangroves. Rather than a long-term increase in estuarine phosphorous concentrations, these changes show how storm surge delivers this nutrient to wetlands and fuels productivity there.
Daniel Childers



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