Removing water samples from an autosampler at a Taylor Slough mangrove site
Photo by Teresa Casal
Marine supplies of phosphorus and salinity play a regulatory role in ecosystem dynamics in the Everglades estuarine ecotone. FCE biogeochemical work focuses on quantifying the content of atmospheric, surface and ground water influencing both ecotone regions. An added emphasis on the microbial community in the water and soils helps researchers understand their role in regulating biogeochemical fluxes, and also the stability of peat soils in the mangrove forest. It is not clear how these microbial communities will respond to greater salinity, inundation and nutrients associated with sea level rise, or whether restored freshwater inflows will be sufficient to counteract this marine influence. Microbial studies have found that hydrologic differences between TS/Ph and SRS ecotones result in distinctly different residence times, tide ranges, seasonal flows and salinity patterns, and limiting nutrient (P) availability, which influence microbial community structure. Variability between the transects and over time provides a comparative template to examine relationships between driving variables and microbial processing rates, which will be enhanced by process experiments that will disentangle these important ecological drivers of wetland biogeochemistry and C cycling. These determinations will improve our mechanistic understanding of legacy peat loss across the ecosystem as well as constrain projections for peat accretion under contrasting SLR and water management scenarios.