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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Wetlands and Aquatic Processes

Cascading Ecological Effects of Low-Level Phosphorus Enrichment in the Florida Everglades


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 34 No. 2, p. 717-723
    Received: May 26, 2004

    * Corresponding author(s): gaisere@fiu.edu
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  1. Evelyn E. Gaiser *ab,
  2. Joel C. Trexlerb,
  3. Jennifer H. Richardsb,
  4. Daniel L. Childersab,
  5. David Leeb,
  6. Adrienne L. Edwardsd,
  7. Leonard J. Scintoa,
  8. Krish Jayachandranac,
  9. Gregory B. Noee and
  10. Ronald D. Jonesf
  1. a Southeast Environmental Research Center, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199
    b Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199
    d Center for Biodiversity, Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, IL 61820
    c Department of Environmental Studies, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199
    e U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA 20192
    f Department of Biology, Portland State University, Portland, OR 97207


Few studies have examined long-term ecological effects of sustained low-level nutrient enhancement on wetland biota. To determine sustained effects of phosphorus (P) addition on Everglades marshes we added P at low levels (5, 15, and 30 μg L−1 above ambient) for 5 yr to triplicate 100-m flow-through channels in pristine marsh. A cascade of ecological responses occurred in similar sequence among treatments. Although the rate of change increased with dosing level, treatments converged to similar enriched endpoints, characterized most notably by a doubling of plant biomass and elimination of native, calcareous periphyton mats. The full sequence of biological changes occurred without an increase in water total P concentration, which remained near ambient levels until Year 5. This study indicates that Everglades marshes have a near-zero assimilative capacity for P without a state change, that ecosystem responses to enrichment accumulate over time, and that downstream P transport mainly occurs through biota rather than the water column.

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