Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Biology

Advisor's Name

Daniel L. Childers

Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Advisor's Name

Evelyn E. Gaiser

Advisor's Name

Stephen E. Davis III

Advisor's Name

René M. Price

Advisor's Name

Jennifer H. Richards

Date of Defense

7-12-2012

Abstract

Estuaries and estuarine wetlands are ecologically and societally important systems, exhibiting high rates of primary production that fuel offshore secondary production. Hydrological processes play a central role in shaping estuarine ecosystem structure and function by controlling nutrient loading and the relative contributions of marine and terrestrial influences on the estuary. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan includes plans to restore freshwater delivery to Taylor Slough, a shallow drainage basin in the southern Everglades, ultimately resulting in increased freshwater flow to the downstream Taylor River estuary. The existing seasonal and inter-annual variability of water flow and source in Taylor River affords the opportunity to investigate relationships between ecosystem function and hydrologic forcing.

Estimates of aquatic ecosystem metabolism, derived from free-water, diel changes in dissolved oxygen, were combined with assessments of wetland flocculent detritus quality and transport within the context of seasonal changes in Everglades hydrology. Variation in ecosystem gross primary production and respiration were linked to seasonal changes in estuarine water quality using multiple autoregression models. Furthermore, Taylor River was observed to be net heterotrophic, indicating that an allochthonous source of carbon maintained ecosystem respiration in excess of autochthonous primary production. Wetland-derived detritus appears to be an important vector of energy and nutrients across the Everglades landscape; and in Taylor River, is seasonally flushed into ponded segments of the river where it is then respired. Lastly, seasonal water delivery appears to govern feedbacks regulating water column phosphorus availability in the Taylor River estuary.

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