Cascading ecological effects of low-level phosphorus enrichment in the Florida Everglades

Evelyn E. Gaiser, Joel C. Trexler, Jennifer H. Richards, Daniel L. Childers, David Lee, Adrienne L. Edwards, Leonard J. Scinto, Krish Jayachandran, Gregory B. Noe, Ronald D. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Few studies have examined long-term ecological effects of sustained low-level nutrient enhancement on wetland biota. To determine sustained effects of phosphorus (P) addition on Everglades marshes we added P at low levels (5, 15, and 30 μg L-1 above ambient) for 5 yr to triplicate 100-m flow-through channels in pristine marsh. A cascade of ecological responses occurred in similar sequence among treatments. Although the rate of change increased with dosing level, treatments converged to similar enriched endpoints, characterized most notably by a doubling of plant biomass and elimination of native, calcareous periphyton mats. The full sequence of biological changes occurred without an increase in water total P concentration, which remained near ambient levels until Year 5. This study indicates that Everglades marshes have a near-zero assimilative capacity for P without a state change, that ecosystem responses to enrichment accumulate over time, and that downstream P transport mainly occurs through biota rather than the water column.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)717-723
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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