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

FCE Key Findings


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.

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.
Shark River Slough mangroves 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.
Credit: Robert Twilley (image on the left) and Stephen Davis (image on the right)
Long-term data showing soil elevation, estuary water total phosphorus concentration, and mangrove forest Net Ecosystem Production before and after Hurricane Wilma Long-term data showing soil elevation (solid line, right axis), estuary water total phosphorus (TP) concentration (dashed line, right axis), and mangrove forest Net Ecosystem Production (NEP, shaded area, left axis) before and after Hurricane Wilma (October 2005). The hurricane defoliated the mangrove forest and associated storm surge deposited 4 cm of P-enriched mud from the Gulf of Mexico that left a legacy in the water column by slowly leaching back out into the estuary. Source: Evelyn Gaiser

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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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