Date of Award
Master of Science in Biological Sciences (MS)
College, School or Department Name
Department of Biological Sciences
A shift in plant communities of the Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) within the Everglades has been linked to changes in hydrology and high levels of nutrient loading from surrounding agicultural areas. This has resulted in the encroachment of dense cattail stands (Typha domingensis) into areas that had previously been a ridge and slough landscape populated primarily by native sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense). In order to study ecological management solutions in this area, WCA-2A was broken into study plots; several of which became open water areas through the application of herbicide and burning regimens. The open water areas allowed for Chara spp (a submersed algal species) to replace Typha domingensis as the dominant macrophyte.
This study investigated the polymer and ionic profiles of Chara spp, Typha domingensis and Cladium jamaicense and their contributions to detrital flocculent (floc) in the study plots where they are the dominant macrophytes. Floc is not only an important food source for aquatic species; it also supports many algal, fungal and bacterial communities. Data gathered in this study indicated that the floc sample from a phosphorus enriched open water study plot (EO1) where Chara spp was the dominant macrophyte may contain cell wall polymers from sources other than Chara spp (most likely Typha domingensis), while the chemical and polymeric profile of the floc of the study plot where Typha domingensis is the dominant macrophyte (EC1) suggests that the floc layer has contributions from algal sources as well as Typha domingensis.
Additionally, monoclonal antibodies to Arabinoglalactan protein (AGP) and (1,4)-β-D galactan were identified as possible biomarkers for distinguishing algal dominated floc layers from layers dominated by emergent vegetation. Calcium labeling could be a useful tool for this as well because of the high amount of Ca2+ associated with Chara spp cell walls.
When looking into the soluble phosphorus content of the macrophytes and paired floc samples of WCA-2A, it was found that Chara spp may be contributing a greater amount of Ca-bound phosphorus to floc layers where it is the dominant macrophyte when compared to floc layers from study plots dominated by emergent macrophytes. Floc layers also appear to be acting as a nutrient sink for soluble phosphorus.
The findings of this study support the overall hypothesis that the shift from native emergent macrophyte communities to submersed macrophyte communities in study sites of the northern Everglades is affecting the polymeric/chemical profile and ionic content of detrital floc layers. The effects of this shift may contribute to changes in complex flocculent community dynamics.
McKenney, Erin Leigh, "EXPLORING CHANGES IN DETRITAL FLOCCULENT LAYER DYNAMICS DUE TO SHIFTS IN MACROPHYTE COMMUNITIES IN THE NORTHERN EVERGLADES", Master's Thesis, Michigan Technological University, 2014.