Long-Term Relationship between Phosphorus Inputs and Wetland Phosphorus Concentrations in a Northern Everglades Marsh
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Assessments of long-term relationships between changes innutrient inputs and wetland nutrient concentrations can becomplicated by fluctuations in other environmental factors aswell as by problems typical of long-term monitoring data.Consequently, statistical analysisof these types of data sets requirescareful consideration of environmental covariates, potentialbiases in the monitoring design, and irregularities caused bychanges in field sampling protocols. We evaluated therelationship between anthropogenic phosphorus (P) inputs andwater-column total P (TP) concentrations in a northernEverglades marsh by statistically analyzing available datacollected from several sampling programs over the past 20 years(1978–1997). Canal inputs of agricultural runoff contributemost of the P to the marsh and have produced a zone ofenrichment within the marsh during the past few decades.Regression analyses showed that both canal and marsh TPconcentrations increased during the 1980s and then decreased inthe 1990s. However, the statistical relationship between canal Pinputs and marsh TP, while significant, generally was weakexcept for marsh locations adjacent to the canal. Strongerrelationships existed between marsh TP and hydrologic parameterssuch as marsh water depth, which is controlled by changes inweather patterns and marsh management. In particular, dryconditions during the 1980s may have contributed to observedincreases in marsh P concentrations and the movement of a P`front' further into the marsh. Higher rainfall and water depthsand agricultural best management programs initiated during the1990s have been associated with reduced P concentrations incanal waters entering the marsh. While it is anticipated thatthis reduction eventually will result in lower marsh TPconcentrations, this effect is not yet evident, possibly due tointernal loading of P from enriched marsh soils. Our findingsillustrate some of the environmental factors that can complicateattempts to develop empirical relationships between P inputs andwetland P concentrations and to use such relationships to forecast changesin marsh concentrations based on past monitoring data alone.
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