FCE LTER Journal Articles


Phosphorus alleviation of salinity stress: effects of saltwater intrusion on an Everglades freshwater peat marsh


Hurricanes are some of the largest environmental drivers of change in coastal systems. We investigated the impacts of Hurricane Irma on benthic macrophyte communities in Florida Bay (FB) and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), USA. Spatiotemporal analyses were performed at multiple hierarchical levels (site, zone, region) to identify potential changes in the Braun-Blanquet (BB) densities of total seagrass (TSG) and total calcareous green macroalgae (TCAL) post-disturbance and to determine whether changes were attributable to hurricane impacts or normal seasonal and inter-annual variability. There were significant decreases in TSG in one of five zones in FKNMS and in one of six zones in FB, but no change in TCAL was recorded in either system. TSG in the Lower Keys Bayside declined from a mean BB score of 2.6 to 1.2, resulting from storm-induced erosion, whereas TSG in coastal FB declined from 1.05–2.4 to 0.36–2.0, likely due to prolonged hyposalinity and low dissolved oxygen following stormwater drainage. Overall, impacts to South Florida benthic macrophyte communities from Hurricane Irma were not catastrophic and were limited in spatial extent. Our results suggest that coastal areas hit by a storm with heavy winds are more likely to sustain direct physical impacts to the benthos, whereas estuarine areas with longer residence times are more at risk of the indirect effects of stormwater runoff and retention. Our analyses placed putative hurricane impacts within the context of recent variability and historical system baselines through the use of long-term monitoring data coordinated by multiple governmental and academic entities.


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 #DEB-1832229, #DEB-1237517, #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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