Pan, Y., R.J. Stevenson, P. Vaithiyanathan, J. Slate, and C.J. Richardson. 2000. Changes in algal assemblages along observed and experimental phosphorus gradients in a subtropical wetland, U.S.A. Freshwater Biology 44:339-353.

Summary. 1. We wanted to determine if changes in algae in the Everglades were due to increased phosphorus (P) loading.  Epiphytic algae, water chemistry, and surface sediment chemistry were characterized from 32 sloughs along a P gradient in the Everglades and changes in the algal assemblages along the P gradient were compared with those along an experimental P gradient of in situ mesocosms.  The sloughs are the wettest open water habitats characterized by floating and submerged aquatic plants in the Everglades.

2. Algal species composition was much more sensitive to P concentrations than algal biomass.  The diatom species variance among sloughs, captured by 1st ordination axis, was more highly correlated with total P (TP) in surface sediments (r = 0.79), than soluble reactive P (SRP) (r = 0.08) and TP (r = 0.48) in the water column.  Algal biomass (mg chl a cm -2) was not significantly correlated with P (SRP:  r = 0.22, TP: r = 0.19, sediment TP: r = 0.07) along the P gradient in the Everglades.  Cluster analysis classified diatom species assemblages in 32 sloughs into three groups (TWIN I, II, III), which corresponded to three zones along the P gradient.  Dominant diatom species shifted from Mastogloia smithii (40.3%), Cymbella scotica (22.3%) and Fragilaria synegrotesca (21.8%) in TWIN I to Nitzchia ambphibia (22.4%) and C. microcephala (in TWIN III.  TP in surface sediments and TP in epiphyton assemblages increased 4- and 5-fold from TWIN I to TWIN III, respectively.

3. Patterns in epiphytic assemblages along the experimental P gradient in the mesocosms were very similar to those along the Everglades P gradient.  Shannon diversity indices and species richness significantly increased along both P gradients.  TN:TP ration in epiphyton assemblages significantly decreased as sediment TP increased along both P gradients. ordination analysis showed that diatom assemblages in the impacted zone (TWIN III) were ordinated closely to the assemblages from the highest P treatments in the mesocosms.  The assemblages from the less impacted zone (TWIN I) were ordinated closely to the assemblages from controls in the mesocosms.

4. Concurrence between results of our survey and experiments suggest that changes in epiphytic assemblages along the P gradient in the Everglades are caused by increases in P concentrations.

Keywords: periphyton, phosphorus gradient, mesocosms, wetlands

Reproduced with kind permission from Blackwell Publishers.

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