FCE LTER Journal Articles


Effects of shading on calcareous benthic periphyton in a short-hydroperiod oligotrophic wetland (Everglades, FL, USA)


The effects of shade on benthic calcareous periphyton were tested in a short-hydroperiod oligotrophic subtropical wetland (freshwater Everglades). The experiment was a split-plot design set in three sites with similar environmental characteristics. At each site, eight randomly selected 1-m2 areas were isolated individually in a shade house, which did not spectrally change the incident irradiance but reduced it quantitatively by 0, 30, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 98%. Periphyton mat was sampled monthly under each shade house for a 5 month period while the wetland was flooded. Periphyton was analyzed for thickness, DW, AFDW, chlorophyll a (chl a) and incubated in light and dark BOD bottles at five different irradiances to assess its photosynthesis–irradiance (PI) curve and respiration. The PI curves parameters P max, I k and eventually the photoinhibition slope (β) were determined following non-linear regression analyses. Taxonomic composition and total algal biovolume were determined at the end of the experiment. The periphyton composition did not change with shade but the PI curves were significantly affected by it. I k increased linearly with increasing percent irradiance transmittance (%IT = 1−%shade). P max could be fitted with a PI curve equation as it increased with %IT and leveled off after 10%IT. For each shade level, the PI curve was used to integrate daily photosynthesis for a day of average irradiance. The daily photosynthesis followed a PI curve equation with the same characteristics as P max vs. %IT. Thus, periphyton exhibited a high irradiance plasticity under 0–80% shade but could not keep up the same photosynthetic level at higher shade, causing a decrease in daily GPP at 98% shade levels. The plasticity was linked to an increase in the chl a content per cell in the 60–80% shade, while this increase was not observed at lower shade likely because it was too demanding energetically. Thus, chl a is not a good metric for periphyton biomass assessment across variously shaded habitats. It is also hypothesized that irradiance plasticity is linked to photosynthetic coupling between differently comprised algal layers arranged vertically within periphyton mats that have different PI curves.


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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