Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 571–589 | Cite as

Phosphorus scarcity and desiccation stress increase the occurrence of dominant taxa in wetland benthic primary producer communities



A few dominant species of plants often disproportionately contribute to primary production; however, dominance has an underappreciated influence on ecosystem processes and functioning. Cascading impacts of dominant species have been documented in ecosystems undergoing eutrophication, but competitive exclusion may also influence dominance structures when limiting nutrients become scarce (i.e., in lakes experiencing oligotrophication) or with exposure to stressors to which few species are adapted (i.e., desiccation stress in wetlands). To predict impacts of widespread changes in nutrients and hydrology on dominance structures in aquatic ecosystems, we need quantitative assessments of dominance of important primary producers, including algae and cyanobacteria, which can regulate other structural and functional properties of ecosystems. We used a highly spatiotemporally resolved (7 years, 165 sites) dataset from the abundant microbial mats of the Florida Everglades to assess how and why the degree of dominance and the identity of dominant taxa vary across nutrient and desiccation gradients. Using algal counts and the dimensions of algal units (cells, coenobia, colonies, and filaments), we measured dominance as relative biovolume. As hypothesized, the relative biovolume of dominant taxa increased and the number of taxa comprising 95% of the biovolume decreased with lower concentrations of limiting nutrient in the mats (phosphorus; P) and higher desiccation stress. Algal taxa that regulate the structural integrity of mats, such as the filamentous, calcium carbonate precipitating cyanobacterium Scytonema sp., strongly influenced these patterns through their tolerance of P scarcity and desiccation. Our indicators and approach can be used to test whether dominance of microscopic primary producers, and other organisms, increases with nutrient scarcity and desiccation stress in other aquatic ecosystems.


Dominance Phosphorus scarcity Desiccation stress Algae Cyanobacteria Benthic systems Wetlands 



The authors thank the South Florida Water Management District and the United States Army Corps of Engineers for funding fieldwork and laboratory analyses, and Florida International University staff for conducting fieldwork and microscope analyses. Joel Trexler led the CERP-MAP sampling program; Viviana Mazzei, John Kominoski, Anson Mackay, Eric Sokol, Mike Rugge, and two anonymous reviewers provided useful comments and advice. This research was developed in collaboration with the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DEB-1237517, #DBI-0620409, and #DEB-9910514. This is contribution number 843 from the Southeast Environmental Research Center in the Institute of Water & Environment at Florida International University.

Supplementary material

10452_2017_9637_MOESM1_ESM.docx (889 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 889 kb)


  1. American Public Health Association (APHA), American Water Works Association (AWWA), Water Environment Federation (WEF) (2005) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, 21st edn. APHA-AWWA-WEF, Washington DC, USAGoogle Scholar
  2. Bellinger BJ, Gretz MR, Domozych DS, Kiemle SN, Hagerthey SE (2010) Composition of extracellular polymeric substances from periphyton assemblages in the Florida Everglades. J Phycol 46:484–496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bornhoeft SC (2016) Influence of experimental sheet flow on aquatic food webs of the Central Everglades. Master’s thesis, Florida International UniversityGoogle Scholar
  4. Bothwell ML, Taylor BW, Kilroy C (2014) The Didymo story: the role of low dissolved phosphorus in the formation of Didymosphenia geminata blooms. Diatom Res 29:229–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brasil J, Attayde JL, Vasconcelos FR, Dantas DD, Huszar VL (2016) Drought-induced water-level reduction favors cyanobacteria blooms in tropical shallow lakes. Hydrobiologia 770:1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Caraco NF, Miller R (1998) Effects of CO2 on competition between a cyanobacterium and eukaryotic phytoplankton. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 55:54–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carey CC, Ibelings BW, Hoffmann EP, Hamilton DP, Brookes JD (2012) Eco-physiological adaptations that favour freshwater cyanobacteria in a changing climate. Water Res 46:1394–1407CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Chase JM (2007) Drought mediates the importance of stochastic community assembly. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104:17430–17434CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. Coleman JE (1992) Structure and mechanism of alkaline phosphatase. Annu Rev Biophys Biomol Struct 21:441–483CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Downing J, Watson S, McCauley E (2001) Predicting cyanobacteria dominance in lakes. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 58:1905–1908CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Duarte C (2009) Coastal eutrophication research: a new awareness. Hydrobiologia 629:263–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. EPA (1983) Methods for chemical analysis of water and wastes. Chapter 365.1 revision March 83. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, OHGoogle Scholar
  13. Fenner N, Freeman C (2011) Drought-induced carbon loss in peatlands. Nat Geosci 4:895–900CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ferrenberg S, Reed SC, Belnap J (2015) Climate change and physical disturbance cause similar community shifts in biological soil crusts. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112:12116–12121CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. Finlayson CM (2013) Climate change and the wise use of wetlands—information from Australian wetlands. Hydrobiologia 708:145–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Flöder S, Jaschinski S, Wells G, Burns CW (2010) Dominance and compensatory growth in phytoplankton communities under salinity stress. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 395:223–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gaiser EE (2009) Periphyton as an indicator of restoration in the Florida Everglades. Ecol Indic 9:537–545CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gaiser EE, Scinto LJ, Richards JH, Jayachandran K, Childers DL, Trexler JC, Jones RD (2004) Phosphorus in periphyton mats provides the best metric for detecting low-level P enrichment in an oligotrophic wetland. Water Res 38:507–516CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Gaiser EE, Richards JH, Trexler JC, Jones RD, Childers DL (2006) Periphyton responses to eutrophication in the Florida Everglades: cross-system patterns of structural and compositional change. Limnol Oceanogr 51:617–630CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gaiser EE, McCormick PV, Hagerthey SE, Gottlieb AD (2011) Landscape patterns of periphyton in the Florida Everglades. Crit Rev Environ Sci Technol 41(S1):92–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gaiser EE, Gottlieb AD, Lee SS, Trexler JC (2015) The importance of species-based microbial assessment of water quality in freshwater Everglades wetlands. In: Entry J, Jayachandran K, Gottlieb AD, Ogram A (eds) Microbiology of the Everglades ecosystem. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 115–130Google Scholar
  22. Gilad E, von Hardenberg J, Provenzale A, Shachak M, Meron E (2007) A mathematical model of plants as ecosystem engineers. J Theor Biol 244:680–691CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Gleason PJ, Spackman WS Jr (1974) Calcareous periphyton and water chemistry in the Everglades. In: Gleason PJ (ed) Environments of South Florida: present and past. Miami Geological Society, Miami, pp 146–181Google Scholar
  24. Gottlieb A, Richards J, Gaiser E (2005) Effects of desiccation duration on the community structure and nutrient retention of short and long-hydroperiod Everglades periphyton mats. Aquat Bot 82:99–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Grman E, Lau JA, Schoolmaster DR Jr, Gross KL (2010) Mechanisms contributing to stability in ecosystem function depend on the environmental context. Ecol Lett 13:1400–1410CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Gunderson LH (1994) Vegetation: determinants of composition. In: Davis SM, Ogden J (eds) Everglades: the ecosystem and its restoration. St. Lucie, Delray Beach, pp 323–340Google Scholar
  27. Guo Q, Rundel PW (1997) Measuring dominance and diversity in ecological communities: choosing the right variables. J Veg Sci 8:405–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hagerthey SE, Bellinger BJ, Wheeler K, Gantar M, Gaiser EE (2011) Everglades periphyton: a biogeochemical perspective. Crit Rev Environ Sci Technol 41(S1):309–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hair JF Jr, Anderson RE, Tatham RL, Black WC (1995) Multivariate data analysis, 3rd edn. Macmillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Hillebrand H, Durselen CD, Kirschtel D, Pollingher U, Zohary T (1999) Biovolume calculation for pelagic and benthic microalgae. J Phycol 35:403–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hillebrand H, Bennett DM, Cadotte MW (2008) Consequences of dominance: a review of evenness effects on local and regional ecosystem processes. Ecology 89:1510–1520CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Horn H (2003) The relative importance of climate and nutrients in controlling phytoplankton growth in Saidenbach Reservoir. Hydrobiologia 504:159–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Huszar VLM, Reynolds CS (1997) Phytoplankton periodicity and sequences of dominance in an Amazonian flood-plain lake (Lago Batata, Pará, Brasil): responses to gradual environmental change. Hydrobiologia 346:169–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. James DA, Bothwell ML, Chipps SR, Carreiro J (2015) Use of phosphorus to reduce blooms of the benthic diatom Didymosphenia geminata in an oligotrophic stream. Freshw Sci 34:1272–1281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Johnson JB, Omland KS (2004) Model selection in ecology and evolution. Trends Ecol Evol 19:101–108CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Johnson WC, Werner B, Guntenspergen GR, Voldseth RA, Millet B, Naugle DE, Tulbure M, Carroll RWH, Olawsky C (2010) Prairie wetland complexes as landscape functional units in a changing climate. Bioscience 60:128–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jones CG, Lawton JH, Shachak M (1994) Organisms as ecosystem engineers. Oikos 69:373–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jordan F, Coyne S, Trexler JC (1997) Sampling fishes in vegetated habitats: effects of habitat structure on sampling characteristics of the 1-m2 throw trap. Trans Am Fish Soc 126:1012–1020CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Junk WJ (2002) Long-term environmental trends and the future of tropical wetlands. Environ Conserv 29:414–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Karsten U, Holzinger A (2014) Green algae in alpine biological soil crust communities: acclimation strategies against ultraviolet radiation and dehydration. Biodivers Conserv 23:1845–1858CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  41. Komárek J, Hindak F (1975) Taxonomy of new isolated strains of Chroococcidiopsis (Cyanophyceae). Arch Hydrobiol 46(Suppl.):311–329Google Scholar
  42. Komárek J, Anagnostidis K (1986) Modern approach to the classification system of cyanobacteria. 2 Chroococcales. Algol Stud 56(43):157–226Google Scholar
  43. Komárek J, Anagnostidis K (1989) Modern approach to the classification system of cyanobacteria. 4 Nostocales. Algol Stud 56:247–345Google Scholar
  44. Komárek J, Anagnostidis K (1999) Cyanoprokaryota. I. Teil Chlorococcales. In: Ettl H, Gärtner G, Heynig H, Mollenhauer D (eds) Süßwasserflora von Mitteleuropa. Gustav Fischer, Stuttgart, pp 13–145Google Scholar
  45. Kosten S, Huszar VLM, Bécares E, Costa LS, van Donk E, Hansson LA, Jeppesen E, Kruk C, Lacerot G, Mazzeo N, Meester LD, Moss B, Lürling M, Nõges T, Romo S, Scheffer M (2012) Warmer climates boost cyanobacterial dominance in shallow lakes. Glob Change Biol 18:118–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Magurran AE, McGill BJ (2011) Biological diversity: frontiers in measurement and assessment. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  47. Marazzi L, Gaiser EE, Jones VJ, Tobias FAC, Mackay AW (2017) Algal richness and life-history strategies are influenced by hydrology and phosphorus in two major subtropical wetlands. Freshw Biol 62:274–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Marquardt DW (1970) Generalized inverses, ridge regression, biased linear estimation, and nonlinear estimation. Technometrics 12:591–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. McCullough Hennessy S, Deutschman DH, Shier DM, Nordstrom LA, Lenihan C, Montagne JP, Wisinski CL, Swaisgood RR (2016) Experimental habitat restoration for conserved species using ecosystem engineers and vegetation management. Anim Conserv 6:506–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Muster C, Gaudig G, Krebs M, Joosten H (2015) Sphagnum farming: the promised land for peat bog species? Biodivers Conserv 24:1989–2009CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Naja GM, Childers DL, Gaiser EE (2017) Water quality implications of hydrologic restoration alternatives in the Florida Everglades USA. Restor Ecol. doi: 10.1111/rec.12513
  52. Obeysekera J, Barnes J, Nungesser M (2015) Climate sensitivity runs and regional hydrologic modeling for predicting the response of the greater Florida Everglades ecosystem to climate change. Environ Manag 55:749–762CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Oliver TH, Heard MS, Isaac NJ, Roy DB, Procter D, Eigenbrod F, Freckleton R, Hector A et al (2015) Biodiversity and resilience of ecosystem functions. Trends Ecol Evol 30:673–684CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Osborne TZ, Reddy KR, Ellis LR, Aumen NG, Surratt DD, Zimmerman MS, Sadle J (2014) Evidence of recent phosphorus enrichment in surface soils of Taylor Slough and northeast Everglades National Park. Wetlands 34(Suppl 1):S37–S45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Paerl HW, Otten TG (2013) Harmful cyanobacterial blooms: causes, consequences and controls. Microb Ecol 65:995–1010CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Passy SI (2008) Continental diatom biodiversity in stream benthos declines as more nutrients become limiting. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:9663–9667CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  57. Patrick R, Crum B, Coles J (1969) Temperature and manganese as determining factors in the presence of diatom or blue–green algal floras in streams. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 64:472–478CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  58. Philippi T (2005) CERP MAP implementation: transect and sentinel site sampling design. Final Report SFWMD Agreement CP 040131:42Google Scholar
  59. Pisani O, Yamashita Y, Jaffé R (2011) Photo-dissolution of flocculent, detrital material in aquatic environments: contributions to the dissolved organic matter pool. Water Res 45:3836–3844CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Potts M (1994) Desiccation tolerance of prokaryotes. Microbiol Rev 58:755–805PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  61. Prescott GW (1962) Algae of the western Great Lakes Area, revised edn. Wm.C. Brown, Co, DubuqueGoogle Scholar
  62. Reynolds CS (2006) The ecology of phytoplankton. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. RStudio Team (2015) RStudio: integrated development for R. RStudio, Inc., Boston.
  64. Schneiders A, Van Daele T, Van Landuyt W, Van Reeth W (2012) Biodiversity and ecosystem services: complementary approaches for ecosystem management? Ecol Indic 21:123–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Sharma K, Inglett PW, Reddy KR, Ogram AV (2005) Microscopic examination of photoautotrophic and phosphatase-producing organisms in phosphorus-limited Everglades periphyton mats. Limnol Oceanogr 50:2057–2062CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Smith VH (2003) Eutrophication of freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems a global problem. Environ Sci Pollut Res 10:126–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Solorzano L, Sharp JH (1980) Determination of total dissolved P and particulate P in natural waters. Limnol Oceanogr 25:754–758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Stevens DL, Olsen AR (2004) Spatial balanced sampling of natural resources. J Am Stat Assoc 99:262–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Stevenson RJ, Bahls LL (1999) Periphyton protocols. In: Barbour MT, Gerritsen J, Snyder BD (eds) Rapid bioassessment protocols for use in wadeable streams and rivers: periphyton, benthic macroinvertebrates, and fish, 2nd edn. 6-1-6-22. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington. EPA 841-B-99-002Google Scholar
  70. Stevenson RJ, McCormick PV, Frydenborg R (2002) Methods for evaluating wetland condition. #11 using algae to assess environmental condition in wetlands. United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA-822-R-02-021Google Scholar
  71. Stockner JG, Rydin E, Hyenstrand P (2000) Cultural oligotrophication: causes and consequences for fisheries resources. Fisheries 25:7–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Swift DR, Nicholas RB (1987) Periphyton and water quality relationships in the Everglades water conservation areas, 1978–1982. Technical publication 87-2, South Florida Water Management District, West Palm Beach, FLGoogle Scholar
  73. Teh SY, Deangelis DL, Sternberg LS, Miralles-Wilhelm FR, Smith TJ III, Koh H-L (2008) A simulation model for projecting changes in salinity concentrations and species dominance in the coastal margin habitats of the Everglades. Ecol Model 213:245–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Trexler JC, Loftus WF (2016) Invertebrates of the Florida Everglades. In: Batzer D, Boix D (eds) Invertebrates in freshwater wetlands: an international perspective on their ecology. Springer, New York, pp 321–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Vu HD, Wieski K, Pennings SC (2017) Ecosystem engineers drive creek formation in salt marshes. Ecology 98:162–174CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  76. Walker MD, Wahrenb HC, Hollisterc RD, Henryd GHR, Ahlquistf LE, Alatalog JM, Bret-Harteh MS, Calefh MP et al (2006) Plant community responses to experimental warming across the tundra biome. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:1342–1346CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  77. Wehr JD, Sheath RG, Kociolek JP (eds) (2015) Freshwater algae of North America. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  78. Williams WJ, Büdel B, Reichenberger H, Rose N (2014) Cyanobacteria in the Australian northern savannah detect the difference between intermittent dry season and wet season rain. Biodivers Conserv 23:1827–1844CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Wright JP, Jones CG, Flecker AS (2002) An ecosystem engineer, the beaver, increases species richness at the landscape scale. Oecologia 132:96–101CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  80. Zuur A, Ieno EN, Smith GM (2007) Analyzing ecological data. Springer, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southeast Environmental Research Center, Department of Biological SciencesFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA

Personalised recommendations