FCE LTER Journal Articles


Biogeochemistry of Nitrogen Across the Everglades Landscape


Compared to phosphorus (P), nitrogen (N) has received little attention across the Everglades landscape. Despite this lack of attention, N plays important roles in many Everglades systems, including being a significant pollutant in Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, the limiting nutrient in highly P-impacted areas, and an important substrate for microbial metabolism. Storage and transport of N throughout the Everglades is dominated by organic forms, including peat soils and dissolved organic N in the water column. In general, N sources are highest in the northern areas; however, atmospheric deposition and active N2 fixation by the periphyton components are a significant N source throughout most systems. Many of the processes involved in the wetland N cycle remain unmeasured for most of the Everglades systems. In particular, the lack of in situ rates for N2 fixation and denitrification prevent the construction of system-level budgets, especially for the Southern mangrove systems where N export into Florida Bay is critical. There is also the potential for several novel N processes (e.g., Anammox) with an as yet undetermined importance for nitrogen cycling and function of the Everglades ecosystem. Phosphorus loading alters the N cycle by stimulating organic N mineralization with resulting flux of ammonium and DON, and at elevated P concentrations, by increasing rates of N2 fixation and N assimilation. Restoration of hydrology has a potential for significantly impacting N cycling in the Everglades both in terms of affecting N transport, but also by altering aerobic-anaerobic transitions at the soil-water interface or in areas with seasonal drawdowns (e.g., marl prairies). Based on the authors’ understanding of N processes, much more research is necessary to adequately predict potential impacts from hydrologic restoration, as well as the function of Everglades systems as sinks, sources, and transformers of N in the South Florida landscape.


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 #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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