FCE LTER Journal Articles


Phosphorus Biogeochemistry and the Impact of Phosphorus Enrichment: Why Is the Everglades so Unique?


The Florida Everglades is extremely oligotrophic and sensitive to small increases in phosphorus (P) concentrations. P enrichment is one of the dominant anthropogenic impacts on the ecosystem and is therefore a main focus of restoration efforts. In this review, we synthesize research on P biogeochemistry and the impact of P enrichment on ecosystem structure and function in the Florida Everglades. There are clear patterns of increased P concentrations and altered structure and processes along nutrient-enrichment gradients in the water, periphyton, soils, macrophytes, and consumers. Periphyton, an assemblage of algae, bacteria, and associated microfauna, is abundant and has a large influence on phosphorus cycling in the Everglades. The oligotrophic Everglades is P-starved, has lower P concentrations and higher nitrogen–phosphorus (N:P) ratios, and has oxidized to only slightly reduced soil profiles compared to other freshwater wetland ecosystems. Possible general causes and indications of P limitation in the Everglades and other wetlands include geology, hydrology, and dominance of oxidative microbial nutrient cycling. The Everglades may be unique with respect to P biogeochemistry because of the multiple causes of P limitation and the resulting high degree of limitation.


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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