|Measuring floc height at a site in the Taylor Slough ecotone
FCE scientists are interested in the accumulation, fate and transport of organic matter through the Everglades and the estuarine ecotones. Organic matter, which can occur in surface waters in the form of dissolved organic matter (DOM) or in clumps known as floc, is an important component of ecosystems, providing nutrients to microbial communities, plants and animals, thus increasing their productivity. Prior research showed how the ecotone receives organic matter subsidies from considerable distance upstream, particularly during large runoff events, but also found that marine-derived DOM from seagrass communities arrives to the ecotone during tides and storm surges, and from landward groundwater delivery during the dry season. In Phase III of the FCE-LTER project, research focuses on how the balance of fresh and marine water supplies influence OM quality and exchange across the ecotone in order to understand the future of carbon in the estuarine ecotone under sea level rise and fresh water restoration scenarios.
Photo courtesy Greg Losada
How do these factors affect people in south Florida?
The Everglades ecosystem and the services it provides as the largest freshwater wetland in the U.S. help to maintain the environment and the economy of south Florida. Our work shows how the ecosystem may respond to changes in the availability of nutrients in ways that might alter its ability to continue providing those services, such as the accumulation of peat soils that help buffer South Florida from storms.