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  1. Premise

    The southern Florida Everglades landscape sustains wetlands of national and international importance. Sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense), the dominant macrophyte in the Everglades, has two phenotypes that vary in size and density between Everglades marl prairies and peat marshes. Marl prairies have recently been hypothesized to be a newly formed habitat developed after European colonization as a result of landscape‐scale hydrologic modifications, implying that sawgrass marl phenotypes developed in response to the marl habitat. We examined whether sawgrass wetland phenotypes are plastic responses to marl and peat soils.


    In a common‐mesocosm experiment, seedlings from a single Everglades population were grown outdoors in field‐collected marl or peat soils. Growth and morphology of plants were measured over 14 mo, while soil and leaf total nitrogen, total phosphorus, total carbon, and plant biomass and biomass allocation were determined in a final harvest.


    Sawgrass plant morphology diverged in marl vs. peat soils, and variations in morphology and density of mesocosm‐grown plants resembled differences seen in sawgrass plants growing in marl and peat habitats in Everglades wetlands. Additionally, sawgrass growing in marl made abundant dauciform roots, while dauciform root production of sawgrass growing in peat was correlated with soil total phosphorus.


    Sawgrass from a single population grown in marl or peat soils can mimic sawgrass phenotypes associated with marl vs. peat habitats. This plasticity is consistent with the hypothesis that Everglades marl prairies are relatively new habitats that support plant communities assembled after European colonization and subsequent landscape modifications.

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  2. Abstract

    Mangroves are the most blue-carbon rich coastal wetlands contributing to the reduction of atmospheric CO2through photosynthesis (sequestration) and high soil organic carbon (C) storage. Globally, mangroves are increasingly impacted by human and natural disturbances under climate warming, including pervasive pulsing tropical cyclones. However, there is limited information assessing cyclone’s functional role in regulating wetlands carbon cycling from annual to decadal scales. Here we show how cyclones with a wide range of integrated kinetic energy (IKE) impact C fluxes in the Everglades, a neotropical region with high cyclone landing frequency. Using long-term mangrove Net Primary Productivity (Litterfall, NPPL) data (2001–2018), we estimated cyclone-induced litterfall particulate organic C (litter-POC) export from mangroves to estuarine waters. Our analysis revealed that this lateral litter-POC flux (71–205 g C m−2 year−1)—currently unaccounted in global C budgets—is similar to C burial rates (69–157 g C m−2 year−1) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC, 61–229 g C m−2 year−1) export. We proposed a statistical model (PULITER) between IKE-based pulse index and NPPLto determine cyclone’s impact on mangrove role as C sink or source. Including the cyclone’s functional role in regulating mangrove C fluxes is critical to developing local and regional climate change mitigation plans.

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  3. Abstract

    Ecosystems across the United States are changing in complex ways that are difficult to predict. Coordinated long‐term research and analysis are required to assess how these changes will affect a diverse array of ecosystem services. This paper is part of a series that is a product of a synthesis effort of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) network. This effort revealed that each LTER site had at least one compelling scientific case study about “what their site would look like” in 50 or 100 yr. As the site results were prepared, themes emerged, and the case studies were grouped into separate papers along five themes: state change, connectivity, resilience, time lags, and cascading effects and compiled into this special issue. This paper addresses the time lags theme with five examples from diverse biomes including tundra (Arctic), coastal upwelling (California Current Ecosystem), montane forests (Coweeta), and Everglades freshwater and coastal wetlands (Florida Coastal Everglades) LTER sites. Its objective is to demonstrate the importance of different types of time lags, in different kinds of ecosystems, as drivers of ecosystem structure and function and how these can effectively be addressed with long‐term studies. The concept that slow, interactive, compounded changes can have dramatic effects on ecosystem structure, function, services, and future scenarios is apparent in many systems, but they are difficult to quantify and predict. The case studies presented here illustrate the expanding scope of thinking about time lags within the LTER network and beyond. Specifically, they examine what variables are best indicators of lagged changes in arctic tundra, how progressive ocean warming can have profound effects on zooplankton and phytoplankton in waters off the California coast, how a series of species changes over many decades can affect Eastern deciduous forests, and how infrequent, extreme cold spells and storms can have enduring effects on fish populations and wetland vegetation along the Southeast coast and the Gulf of Mexico. The case studies highlight the need for a diverse set of LTER (and other research networks) sites to sort out the multiple components of time lag effects in ecosystems.

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  4. Abstract

    Climate change has altered global precipitation patterns and has led to greater variation in hydrological conditions. Wetlands are important globally for their soil carbon storage. Given that wetland carbon processes are primarily driven by hydrology, a comprehensive understanding of the effect of inundation is needed. In this study, we evaluated the effect of water level (WL) and inundation duration (ID) on carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes by analysing a 10‐year (2008–2017) eddy covariance dataset from a seasonally inundated freshwater marl prairie in the Everglades National Park. Both gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (ER) rates showed declines under inundation. While GPP rates decreased almost linearly as WL and ID increased, ER rates were less responsive to WL increase beyond 30 cm and extended inundation periods. The unequal responses between GPP and ER caused a weaker net ecosystem CO2sink strength as inundation intensity increased. Eventually, the ecosystem tended to become a net CO2source on a daily basis when either WL exceeded 46 cm or inundation lasted longer than 7 months. Particularly, with an extended period of high‐WLs in 2016 (i.e., WL remained >40 cm for >9 months), the ecosystem became a CO2source, as opposed to being a sink or neutral for CO2in other years. Furthermore, the extreme inundation in 2016 was followed by a 4‐month postinundation period with lower net ecosystem CO2uptake compared to other years. Given that inundation plays a key role in controlling ecosystem CO2balance, we suggest that a future with more intensive inundation caused by climate change or water management activities can weaken the CO2sink strength of the Everglades freshwater marl prairies and similar wetlands globally, creating a positive feedback to climate change.

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  5. Abstract

    Long‐term ecological research can resolve effects of disturbance on ecosystem dynamics by capturing the scale of disturbance and interactions with environmental changes. To quantify how disturbances interact with long‐term directional changes (sea‐level rise, freshwater restoration), we studied 17 yr of monthly dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total nitrogen (TN), and phosphorus (TP) concentrations and bacterioplankton productivity across freshwater‐to‐marine estuary gradients exposed to multiple disturbance events (e.g., droughts, fire, hurricanes, and low‐temperature anomalies) and long‐term increases in water levels. By studying two neighboring drainages that differ in hydrologic connectivity, we additionally tested how disturbance legacies are shaped by hydrologic connectivity. We predicted that disturbance events would interact with long‐term increases in water levels in freshwater and marine ecosystems to increase spatiotemporal similarity (i.e., synchrony) of organic matter, nutrients, and microbial activities. Wetlands along the larger, deeper, and tidally influenced Shark River Slough (SRS) drainage had higher and more variable DOC, TN, and TP concentrations than wetlands along the smaller, shallower, tidally restricted Taylor River Slough/Panhandle (TS/Ph) drainage. Along SRS, DOC concentrations declined with proximity to coast, and increased in magnitude and variability following drought and flooding in 2015 and a hurricane in 2017. Along TS/Ph, DOC concentrations varied by site (higher in marine than freshwater wetlands) but not year. In both drainages, increases in TN from upstream freshwater marshes occurred following fire in 2008 and droughts in 2010 and 2015, whereas downstream increases in TP occurred with coastal storm surge from hurricanes in 2005 and 2017. Decreases in DOC:TN and DOC:TP were explained by increased TN and TP. Increases in bacterioplankton productivity occurred throughout both drainages following low‐temperature events (2010 and 2011) and a hurricane (2017). Long‐term TN and TP concentrations and bacterioplankton productivity were correlated (r > 0.5) across a range of sampling distances (1–50 km), indicating spatiotemporal synchrony. DOC concentrations were not synchronized across space or time. Our study advances disturbance ecology theory by illustrating how disturbance events interact with long‐term environmental changes and hydrologic connectivity to determine the magnitude and extent of disturbance legacies. Understanding disturbance legacies will enhance prediction and enable more effective management of rapidly changing ecosystems.

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  6. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Nitrification is a central process in the global nitrogen cycle, carried out by a complex network of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA), ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB), complete ammonia-oxidizing (comammox) bacteria, and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB). Nitrification is responsible for significant nitrogen leaching and N 2 O emissions and thought to impede plant nitrogen use efficiency in agricultural systems. However, the actual contribution of each nitrifier group to net rates and N 2 O emissions remain poorly understood. We hypothesized that highly fertile agricultural soils with high organic matter mineralization rates could allow a detailed characterization of N cycling in these soils. Using a combination of molecular and activity measurements, we show that in a mixed AOA, AOB, and comammox community, AOA outnumbered low diversity assemblages of AOB and comammox 50- to 430-fold, and strongly dominated net nitrification activities with low N 2 O yields between 0.18 and 0.41 ng N 2 O–N per µg NO x –N in cropped, fallow, as well as native soil. Nitrification rates were not significantly different in plant-covered and fallow plots. Mass balance calculations indicated that plants relied heavily on nitrate, and not ammonium as primary nitrogen source in these soils. Together, these results imply AOA as integral part of the nitrogen cycle in a highly fertile agricultural soil. 
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  7. Wetland restoration requires managing long‐term changes in hydroperiod and ecosystem functions. We quantified relationships among spatiotemporal variability in wetland hydrology and total phosphorus (TP) and its stoichiometric relationships with total organic carbon (TOC:TP) and total carbon (TC:TP) and total nitrogen (TN:TP) in water, flocculent organic matter (floc), periphyton, sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense), and soil during early phases of freshwater wetland restoration—water year (WY) 2016 (1 May, 2015 to 30 April, 2016) to WY 2019—in Everglades National Park (ENP, Homestead, FL, U.S.A.). Wetland hydroperiod increased by 87 days, following restoration actions and rainfall events that increased median stage in the upstream source canal. Concentrations of TP were highest and most variable at sites closest (<1 km) to canal inputs and upstream wetland sources of legacy P. Surface water TOC:TP and TN:TP ratios were highest in wetlands >1 km downstream of the canal in wet season 2015 with spatial variability reflecting disturbances including droughts, fires, and freeze events. The TP concentrations of flocculent soil surface particles, periphyton, sawgrass, and consolidated soil declined, and TC:TP and TN:TP ratios increased (except soil) logarithmically with downstream distance from the canal. We measured abrupt increases in periphyton (wet season 2018) and sawgrass TP (wet season 2015 and 2018) at sites <1 km from the canal, likely reflecting legacy TP loading. Our results suggest restoration efforts that increase freshwater inflow and hydroperiod will likely change patterns of nutrient concentrations among water and organic matter compartments of wetlands as a function of nutrient legacies.

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