Variation in soil phosphorus, sulfur, and iron pools among south Florida wetlands
To determine relationships between soil nutrient status and known gradients in primary production, we collected and analyzed soils from 17 LTER sampling sites along two transects through south Florida wetland ecosystems. Through upstream freshwater marsh, a middle reach including the oligohaline marsh/mangrove ecotone, and downstream estuarine habitats, we observed systematic variation in soil bulk density, organic content, and pools of phosphorus (P), inorganic sulfur, and extractable iron. Consistent with observed differences in wetland productivity known to be limited by P availability, total P averaged ~200 μg g dw−1 in soils from the eastern Taylor Slough/Panhandle and was on average three times higher in soils from the western Shark River Slough. Along both transects, the largest pool of phosphorus was the inorganic, carbonate-bound fraction, comprising 35–44% of total P. Greater than 90% of the total inorganic sulfur pool in these south Florida wetland soils was extracted as pyrite. Freshwater marsh sites typically were lower in pyrite sulfur (0.2–0.8 mg g dw−1) relative to marsh/mangrove ecotone and downstream estuary sites (0.5–2.9 mg g dw−1). Extractable iron in freshwater marsh soils was significantly higher from the Taylor Slough/Panhandle transect (3.2 mg g dw−1) relative to the western Shark River Slough transect (1.1 mg g dw−1), suggesting spatial variation in sources and/or depositional environments for iron. Further, these soil characteristics represent the collective, integrated signal of ecosystem structure, so any long-term changes in factors like water flow or water quality may be reflected in changes in bulk soil properties. Since the objective of current Everglades restoration initiatives is the enhancement and re-distribution of freshwater flows through the south Florida landscape, the antecedent soil conditions reported here provide a baseline against which future, post-restoration measurements can be compared.
Keywordssulfur iron phosphorus Everglades mangrove Florida Bay
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