Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research
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Primary Production Working Group
(Phase II, 2007-2012)

FCE-LTER scientists are measuring the effects of increased freshwater flow resulting from restoration projects on the productivity of plants, such as sawgrass and mangrove trees, in the estuarine ecotone. Primary production has been shown to be higher in the estuarine ecotones than in the nutrient-poor upstream marshes of the Everglades. In the Shark River Slough ecotone, this was found to be due to mixing with phosphorus-rich marine waters, while in the Taylor Slough ecotone, phosphorus-rich groundwater might be mixing with surface water.

In Phase II of the FCE-LTER project, researchers are examining the effects of increased freshwater flow on these estuaries. They believe it will enhance oligotrophy by pushing the relatively phosphorus-rich marine water away. Such a scenario could cause productivity to decline. This decline in productivity, however, could be offset to some degree by a greater availability of organic matter as more of this material is carried downstream. In the Taylor Slough ecotone, however, productivity could decline with increased freshwater flow since the freshwater could suppress phosphorus-rich groundwater discharge in this region. In Phase II of the project, researchers are further investigating the impacts of phosphorus-rich groundwater in the estuarine ecotone.

How do these factors affect people in south Florida?
Primary producers form the structure that can help buffer coastal areas during extreme events, like hurricanes, remove excess nutrients and contaminants from water, regulate air quality and provide a mosaic of food and habitat for a diversity of other organisms. They also provide an indication of the status of the ecosystem - their distribution and production are affected by water use and management. By measuring their productivity along with important water quality and quantity parameters along the freshwater-to-marine gradients, researchers can determine causes for changes in productivity that can be used to guide human activities in a way that preserves the important ecosystem services delivered by this feature.

Measuring sawgrass at TS/Ph-1 in Taylor Slough
Measuring sawgrass at TS/Ph-1 in Taylor Slough

Measuring mangrove seedlings in Shark River Slough
Sharon Ewe and Edward Castaneda measuring mangrove seedlings along transects at SRS-6 in Shark River Slough

Applying Florida Bay sediments to a dwarf mangrove forest in Taylor Slough
Dwarf mangrove forest in Taylor Slough (TS/Ph-6b)

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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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