Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 292–307 | Cite as

Hydrological Conditions Control P Loading and Aquatic Metabolism in an Oligotrophic, Subtropical Estuary

  • Gregory R. Koch
  • Daniel L. Childers
  • Peter A. Staehr
  • René M. Price
  • Stephen E. Davis
  • Evelyn E. Gaiser


Using high-resolution measures of aquatic ecosystem metabolism and water quality, we investigated the importance of hydrological inputs of phosphorus (P) on ecosystem dynamics in the oligotrophic, P-limited coastal Everglades. Due to low nutrient status and relatively large inputs of terrestrial organic matter, we hypothesized that the ponds in this region would be strongly net heterotrophic and that pond gross primary production (GPP) and respiration (R) would be the greatest during the “dry,” euhaline estuarine season that coincides with increased P availability. Results indicated that metabolism rates were consistently associated with elevated upstream total phosphorus and salinity concentrations. Pulses in aquatic metabolism rates were coupled to the timing of P supply from groundwater upwelling as well as a potential suite of hydrobiogeochemical interactions. We provide evidence that freshwater discharge has observable impacts on aquatic ecosystem function in the oligotrophic estuaries of the Florida Everglades by controlling the availability of P to the ecosystem. Future water management decisions in South Florida must include the impact of changes in water delivery on downstream estuaries.


Estuary Everglades Hydrology Metabolism Phosphorus 



We would like to thank Mark Zucker at the United States Geological Survey for assistance in obtaining discharge data at Taylor River stations. We also thank Rafael Travieso, Adam Hines, and Damon Rondeau for assistance in the field and also with LTER data processing. Xavier Zapata-Rios collected groundwater samples. We thank Jon Cole, Jennifer Richards, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful discussions and feedback that improved the quality of this manuscript. This research was supported in part by the NASA WaterSCAPES project and an Everglades Foundation Graduate Fellowship. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under grant no. DEB-9910514 (for work from 2000 to 2005) and grant no. DBI-0620409 (for work from 2006–present) and through the Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER Program under grant no. SBE-1026865. This is contribution number 508 from the Southeast Environmental Research Center at Florida International University.

Supplementary material

12237_2011_9431_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (22 kb)
Supplementary Table 1 Estimates of the autoregressive parameters from the multiple autoregression models used in this study (Proc Autoreg, SAS Institute). The number following each “AR” parameter denotes the backward number of data points for a particular autocorrelation (e.g., “AR1” means the autocorrelation between a data point and the data point immediately before it) (PDF 22 kb)


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory R. Koch
    • 1
  • Daniel L. Childers
    • 2
  • Peter A. Staehr
    • 3
  • René M. Price
    • 4
  • Stephen E. Davis
    • 5
  • Evelyn E. Gaiser
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences and Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Marine Ecology, National Environmental Research InstituteAarhus UniversityRoskildeDenmark
  4. 4.Department of Earth and Environment and Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  5. 5.Everglades FoundationPalmetto BayUSA

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