Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 204–214 | Cite as

Indirect Hurricane Effects on Resource Availability and Microbial Communities in a Subtropical Wetland-Estuary Transition Zone

  • Clayton J. Williams
  • Joseph N. Boyer
  • Frank J. JochemEmail author


Three sequential hurricanes made landfall over the South Florida peninsula in August and September 2004. The storm systems passed north of the Everglades wetlands and northeastern Florida Bay, but indirect storm effects associated with changes in freshwater discharge during an otherwise drought year occurred across the wetland–estuary transition area. To assess the impacts of the 2004 hurricane series on hydrology, nutrients, and microbial communities in the Everglades wetlands to Florida Bay transition area, results are presented in the context of a seasonal cycle without hurricane activity (2003). Tropical activity in 2004 increased rainfall over South Florida and the study area, thereby temporarily relieving drought conditions. Not so much actual rainfall levels at the study site but more so water management practices in preparation of the hurricane threats, which include draining of an extensive freshwater canal system into the coastal ocean to mitigate inland flooding, rapidly reversed hypersalinity in the wetlands-estuary study area. Although annual discharge was comparable in both years, freshwater discharge in 2004 occurred predominantly during the late wet season, whereas discharge was distributed evenly over the 2003 wet season. Total organic carbon (TOC), ammonium (\( \operatorname{NH} ^{ + }_{4} \)), and soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) concentrations increased during the hurricane series to concentrations two to five times higher than long-term median concentrations in eastern Florida Bay. Spatiotemporal patterns in these resource enrichments suggest that TOC and SRP originated from the Everglades mangrove ecotone, while \( \operatorname{NH} ^{ + }_{4} \) originated from the bay. Phytoplankton biomass in the bay increased significantly during storm-related freshwater discharge, but declined at the same time in the wetland mangrove ecotone from bloom conditions during the preceding drought. In the bay, these changes were associated with increased nanophytoplankton and decreased picophytoplankton biomass. Heterotrophic bacterial production increased in response to freshwater discharge, whereas bacterial abundance decreased. Hydrochemical and microbial changes were short-lived, and the wetland–bay transition area reverted to more typical oligotrophic conditions within 3 months after the hurricanes. These results suggest that changes in freshwater discharge after drought conditions and during the hurricane series forced the productivity and P-enriched characteristics of the wetland’s mangrove ecotone, although only briefly, to the south into Florida Bay.


Bacteria Florida Bay Florida Everglades Phytoplankton 



We thank Daniel L. Childers, Evelyn E. Gaiser, the NSF-FCE-LTER, SERC, and SFWMD for long-term data and logistical and laboratory assistance. We also thank the Florida Institute of Oceanography’s Florida Keys Marine Lab for boat transport. This research was funded by NOAA COP grant NA04NOS4780020 and by the NSF LTER under NSF grant 9910514. This is contribution 370 of the Southeast Environmental Research Center at Florida International University.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clayton J. Williams
    • 1
  • Joseph N. Boyer
    • 2
  • Frank J. Jochem
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Marine Biology ProgramFlorida International UniversityNorth MiamiUSA
  2. 2.Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA

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