Site: Florida Coastal Everglades LTER
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 research has shown that the Everglades operates differently from other coastal ecosystems in that its estuaries that are “upside-down”, with seawater supplying limiting nutrients landward, rather than the other way around. Collaborative research with Caribbean scientists, particularly those associated with Mexican LTER programs (MexLTER), has shown similar upside-down features in similar tropical low nutrient wetlands of the Yucatan peninsula and northern Belize. Because this finding has ramifications for coastal restoration and conservation, FCE scientists are continuing collaborations with Mexican colleagues to establish coordinated science and education programs to improve adaptive decision-making in coastal ecosystems of south Florida, the Yucatan, and throughout the Caribbean.

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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