Factors affecting spatial and temporal variability in material exchange between the Southern Everglades wetlands and Florida Bay (USA)

Martha A. Sutula, Brian C. Perez, Enrique Reyes, Daniel L. Childers, Steve Davis, John W. Day, David Rudnick, Fred Sklar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Physical and biological processes controlling spatial and temporal variations in material concentration and exchange between the Southern Everglades wetlands and Florida Bay were studied for 2.5 years in three of the five major creek systems draining the watershed. Daily total nitrogen (TN), and total phosphorus (TP) fluxes were measured for 2 years in Taylor River, and ten 10-day intensive studies were conducted in this creek to estimate the seasonal flux of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), total organic carbon (TOC), and suspended matter. Four 10-day studies were conducted simultaneously in Taylor, McCormick, and Trout Creeks to study the spatial variation in concentration and flux. The annual fluxes of TOC, TN, and TP from the Southern Everglades were estimated from regression equations. The Southern Everglades watershed, a 460-km2 area that includes Taylor Slough and the area south of the C-111 canal, exported 7.1 g Cm-2, 0.46 g N m -2, and 0.007 g P m-2, annually. Everglades P flux is three to four orders of magnitude lower than published flux estimates from wetlands influenced by terrigenous sedimentary inputs. These low P flux values reflect both the inherently low P content of Everglades surface water and the efficiency of Everglades carbonate sediments and biota in conserving and recycling this limiting nutrient. The seasonal variation of freshwater input to the watershed was responsible for major temporal variations in N, P. and C export to Florida Bay; approximately 99% of the export occurred during the rainy season. Wind-driven forcing was most important during the later stages of the dry season when low freshwater head coincided with southerly winds, resulting in a net import of water and materials into the wetlands. We also observed an east to west decrease in TN:TP ratio from 212:1 to 127:1. Major spatial gradients in N:P ratios and nutrient concentration and flux among the creek were consistent with the westward decrease in surface water runoff from the P-limited Everglades and increased advection of relatively P-rich Gulf of Mexico (GOM) waters into Florida Bay. Comparison of measured nutrient flux from Everglades surface water inputs from this study with published estimates of other sources of nutrients to Florida Bay (i.e. atmospheric deposition, anthropogenic inputs from the Florida Keys, advection from the GOM) show that Everglades runoff represents only 2% of N inputs and 0.5% of P input to Florida Bay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)757-781
Number of pages25
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Everglades
  • Florida Bay
  • Material flux
  • Nitrogen
  • Oligotrophic
  • Phosphorus
  • Spatial and temporal variations
  • Wetlands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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