The Everglades remember

By Florida International University2/3/2020

Photo Credit: Florida International University

The chemical signature left behind by hurricanes, fires, cold snaps and droughts can linger in the slow-moving water of the Florida Everglades for up to a decade.

No one expected evidence of these disturbances to be detectable in the water for so long and spread across different areas of the Everglades. Increased levels of phosphorus, nitrogen, bacterial production and dissolved carbon were found in long-term water data collected from 2000 to 2017 through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research program supported by the National Science Foundation. The discovery could influence water management of the Everglades.

“That we can use long-term data to sense that a disturbance happened means it must be having a functionally important role in the system,” said FIU ecologist John Kominoski, the study’s lead author. “Otherwise, it would be overwhelmed by noise instead of these clear signals.”

Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Fire in 2008. A Cold snap and a drought in 2010. Another cold snap in 2011. Both a drought and excessive flooding in 2015. Hurricane Irma in 2017. Each one of these disturbances left unmistakable, traceable signals in the chemistry of the water winding through the Everglades.

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