FCE LTER Journal Articles


Phosphorus cycling and partitioning in an oligotrophic Everglades wetland ecosystem: a radioisotope tracing study


1. Our goal was to quantify short-term phosphorus (P) partitioning and identify the ecosystem components important to P cycling in wetland ecosystems. To do this, we added P radiotracer to oligotrophic, P-limited Everglades marshes. 32PO4 was added to the water column in six 1-m2 enclosed mesocosms located in long-hydroperiod marshes of Shark River Slough, Everglades National Park. Ecosystem components were then repeatedly sampled over 18 days.

2. Water column particulates (>0.45 μm) incorporated radiotracer within the first minute after dosing and stored 95–99% of total water column 32P activity throughout the study. Soluble (<0.45 μm) 32P in the water column, in contrast, was always <5% of the 32P in surface water. Periphyton, both floating and attached to emergent macrophytes, had the highest specific activity of 32P (Bq g−131P) among the different ecosystem components. Fish and aquatic macroinvertebrates also had high affinity for P, whereas emergent macrophytes, soil and flocculent detrital organic matter (floc) had the lowest specific activities of radiotracer.

3. Within the calcareous, floating periphyton mats, 81% of the initial 32P uptake was associated with Ca, but most of this 32P entered and remained within the organic pool (Ca-associated = 14% of total) after 1 day. In the floc layer, 32P rapidly entered the microbial pool and the labile fraction was negligible for most of the study.

4. Budgeting of the radiotracer indicated that 32P moved from particulates in the water column to periphyton and floc and then to the floc and soil over the course of the 18 day incubations. Floc (35% of total) and soil (27%) dominated 32P storage after 18 days, with floating periphyton (12%) and surface water (10%) holding smaller proportions of total ecosystem 32P.

5. To summarise, oligotrophic Everglades marshes exhibited rapid uptake and retention of labile 32P. Components dominated by microbes appear to control short-term P cycling in this oligotrophic ecosystem.


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.

This document is currently not available here.