1. Unique Nutrient Sources
2. Food Webs
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.
3. Productivity Paradox
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.
4. Productivity Gradients in Mangroves
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.
5. Communication to Policymakers
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.
6. Blue Carbon Stored in Seagrass
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
7. Drought and Carbon Loss
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.
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
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.