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Ecosystems

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 430–444 | Cite as

Long-Term Effects of Adding Nutrients to an Oligotrophic Coastal Environment

  • Anna R. Armitage
  • Thomas A. Frankovich
  • James W. Fourqurean
Article

Abstract

Management of ecological disturbances requires an understanding of the time scale and dynamics of community responses to disturbance events. To characterize long-term seagrass bed responses to nutrient enrichment, we established six study sites in Florida Bay, USA. In 24 plots (0.25 m2) at each site, we regularly added nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in a factorial design for 7 years. Five of the six sites exhibited strong P limitation. Over the first 2 years, P enrichment increased Thalassia testudinum cover in the three most P-limited sites. After 3 years, Halodule wrightii began to colonize many of the P-addition plots, but the degree of colonization was variable among sites, possibly due to differences in the supply of viable propagules. Thalassia increased its allocation to aboveground tissue in response to P enrichment; Halodule increased in total biomass but did not appear to change its aboveground: belowground tissue allocation. Nutrient enrichment did not cause macroalgal or epiphytic overgrowth of the seagrass. Nitrogen retention in the study plots was variable but relatively low, whereas phosphorus retention was very high, often exceeding 100% of the P added as fertilizer over the course of our experiments. Phosphorus retentions exceeding 100% may have been facilitated by increases in Thalassia aboveground biomass, which promoted the settlement of suspended particulate matter containing phosphorus. Our study demonstrated that low-intensity press disturbance events such as phosphorus enrichment can initiate a slow, ramped successional process that may alter community structure over many years.

Keywords

aboveground and belowground biomass epiphyte eutrophication macroalgae nutrient press pulse ramp disturbances seagrass 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by a grant from the Everglades National Park (ENP) under cooperative agreement 1443CA528001022 and by the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research Program funded by the US National Science Foundation (Cooperative Agreement #DEB-9910514). Water column nutrient concentrations were provided by the SERC-FIU Water Quality Monitoring Network which is supported by SFWMD/SERC Cooperative Agreement #4600000352 as well as EPA Agreement #X7-96410603-3. Doug Morrison and Bill Perry facilitated permit issuance and use of ENP facilities. We are grateful to the many people who devoted field and laboratory time to this project. Pursell Technologies Inc. and IMC Global generously donated the nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers, respectively, for this study. This is contribution number 509 from the Southeast Environmental Research Center at FIU.

Supplementary material

10021_2011_9421_MOESM1_ESM.docx (393 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 393 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna R. Armitage
    • 1
    • 2
  • Thomas A. Frankovich
    • 3
  • James W. Fourqurean
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences and Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Department of Marine BiologyTexas A&M University at GalvestonGalvestonUSA
  3. 3.Marine Sciences Program, Department of Biological Sciences and Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityNorth MiamiUSA

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