Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research
Florida Coastal Everglades LTER Key Findings

FCE Key Findings


Some examples of FCE accomplishments that have transformed science:

1. 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.
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2. Food Webs
FCE scientists discovered that decomposing plant material, rather than the plants themselves, supports the freshwater food web. When exported to coastal waters, this material also supports substantial marine plant and animal life.
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3. Productivity Paradox
FCE scientists revealed how human-induced nutrient enrichment in the Everglades and Caribbean wetlands affect the "productivity paradox" in which an extraordinarily high level of algal growth supports far fewer aquatic animal consumers than expected. Understanding this dynamic is critical to the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem.
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4. Productivity Gradients in Mangroves
FCE researchers have found significant spatial differences in mangrove productivity; from riverine mangrove forests with productivity rates similar to tropical rain forests to low structure scrub mangroves that grow in nutrient-poor environments. Mangrove forests growth and survival are greatly influenced by the impacts and legacies of hurricanes, sea-level rise, and human impacts along coastal areas.
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5. Communication to Policymakers
Collaborating with agency scientists, FCE scientists developed an effective communication tool for directly informing the U.S. Congress and other decision makers about the science of Everglades restoration.
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6. Blue Carbon Stored in Seagrass
LTER researchers have found that seagrass ecosystems remove significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in below-ground soils. If seagrass ecosystems continue to be lost due to nutrient enrichment, coastline modifications and sea level rise, a globally significant amount of carbon could be lost to the atmosphere.
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7. Drought and Carbon Loss
Marshes typically absorb more carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere than they release, making them net sinks for carbon dioxide. FCE studies of carbon dynamics that included extended dry periods indicated an increase in carbon losses and alterations in greenhouse carbon balance (amount of CO2 sequestered/CH4 released). Anticipated increases in dry season duration driven by reduced water availability can switch the marsh from a carbon sink to a source, increasing contributions to atmospheric greenhouse gases.
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National Science Foundation logo This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DEB-1237517, #DBI-0620409, and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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