Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research
Untitled Document


Trophic Dynamics & Community Structure Working Group
(Phase II, 2007-2012)

In the Everglades, periphyton and floc form the base of the food web. Small fish, shrimp and other organisms eat this stuff. In turn, large fish and birds feed on small fish and shrimp, and alligators and other top predators feast on large fish and birds. Each of the players in this food web is both directly and indirectly affected by the amount of nutrients and water in the ecosystem. Such trophic dynamics are of particular interest to FCE-LTER scientists.

In Phase II of the FCE-LTER project, researchers are investigating consumer-mediated nutrient transport, which they expect contributes substantially to ecological processes in the nutrient-poor ecotones. They are also examining the effects of increased freshwater flow and organic matter on consumers and food webs. Increased freshwater flow and expected increases of floc may modify animal-mediated nutrient transport if consumers change their movement patterns or habitat use in response to changes in surface water conditions, such as salinity and flow rates, or biotic factors, such as prey availability and predator abundance.

Researchers are using acoustic telemetry to track four species - Florida gar, snook, American alligators, and bull sharks - in order to quantify their movements; they are using drop-trap and throw-trap sampling to determine fish species composition and biomass; and they are measuring nutrients in fish tissues.

How do these factors affect people in south Florida?
The large consumers, like fishes, are the reason that many people visit the Everglades. Knowing what determines the distribution of these animals will help people to enjoy the ecosystem and help managers ensure that it remains a wonderful recreational area for generations to come.

Throw trap
Joel Trexler using a throw trap to sample fish communities

Throw trap
Sampling fish communities using a throw trap

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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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