Importance/IssuesPeriphyton is a critical primary producer base of the food web in South Florida non-forested wetlands and estuarine areas. Periphyton production can exceed phytoplankton; it stabilizes the sediments, controls nutrient upwelling, and changes compositionally in direct response to salinity and water management (quality, quantity, duration). Periphyton composition reflects changes over a period of time and thus may provide a better indicator of changes in hydroperiod or nutrients than monthly water quality measurements or depth measurements.
Monitoring ObjectivesThe goal of this monitoring is to assess water quality within the non-cattail dominated marsh habitats in northwest Big Cypress National Preserve using diatom and total phosphorus metrics. The South Florida/Caribbean Network will monitor the status and long-term trends in the community structure of periphyton mat diatoms. Additionally, the network will monitor TP concentrations in the periphyton mat within basins of the preserve for the purpose of monitoring changes in water quality that may affect ecological functioning within the preserve.
Periphyton as an indicator of water quality is not well-studied in Big Cypress National Preserve. However, the preserve’s proximity to monitoring in Everglades National Park and the Water Conservation Areas; its similar low-nutrient, oligotrophic natural condition; and periphyton’s prevalence throughout marsh areas in the preserve all suggest that periphyton will be a useful indicator of water quality at Big Cypress National Preserve, similar to its value for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. To confirm periphyton’s utility as an indicator of water quality, the South Florida/Caribbean Network conducted several pilot studies.
The South Florida/Caribbean Network developed the periphyton monitoring in Big Cypress National Preserve protocol to analyze changes in the diatom community structure and total phosphorus concentration of the Big Cypress National Preserve periphyton mat. The monitoring of this important vital sign will allow for detection of the effects of anthropogenic stressors in the preserve, as well as comparison to other monitoring efforts such as those conducted as part of the regional Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
Periphyton publicationsFind all monitoring reports, protocols, and resource briefs below.
Last updated: May 9, 2019