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

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-307
Number of pages16
JournalEstuaries and Coasts
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Estuary
  • Everglades
  • Hydrology
  • Metabolism
  • Phosphorus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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