FCE LTER Journal Articles


Spatial variability in Florida Bay particulate organic matter composition: combining flow cytometry with stable isotope analyses


Long-term management plans for restoration of natural flow conditions through the Everglades increase the importance of understanding potential nutrient impacts of increased freshwater delivery on Florida Bay biogeochemistry. Planktonic communities respond quickly to changes in water quality, thus spatial variability in community composition and relationships to nutrient parameters must be understood in order to evaluate future downstream impacts of modifications to Everglades hydrology. Here we present initial results combining flow cytometry analyses of phytoplankton and bacterial populations (0.1–50 μm size fraction) with measurements of δ13C and δ15N composition and dissolved inorganic nutrient concentrations to explore proxies for planktonic species assemblage compositions and nutrient cycling. Particulate organic material in the 0.1–50 μm size fraction was collected from five stations in Northeastern and Western Florida Bay to characterize spatial variability in species assemblage and stable isotopic composition. A dense bloom of the picocyanobacterium, Synechococcus elongatus, was observed at Western Florida Bay sites. Smaller Synechococcus sp. were present at Northeast sites in much lower abundance. Bacteria and detrital particles were also more abundant at Western Florida Bay stations than in the northeast region. The highest abundance of detritus occurred at Trout Creek, which receives freshwater discharge from the Everglades through Taylor Slough. In terms of nutrient availability and stable isotopic values, the S. elongatus population in the Western bay corresponded to low DIN (0.5 μM NH 4 + ; 0.2 μM NO 3 ) concentrations and depleted δ15N signatures ranging from +0.3 to +0.8‰, suggesting that the bloom supported high productivity levels through N2-fixation. δ15N values from the Northeast bay were more enriched (+2.0 to +3.0‰), characteristic of N-recycling. δ13C values were similar for all marine Florida Bay stations, ranging from −17.6 to −14.4‰, however were more depleted at the mangrove ecotone station (−25.5 to −22.3‰). The difference in the isotopic values reflects differences in carbon sources. These findings imply that variations in resource availability and nutrient sources exert significant control over planktonic community composition, which is reflected by stable isotopic signatures.


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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