Colorado mountains

Assessment of diatom assemblages in a subtropical karstic wetland: ecosystem-scale inference models and trajectory analysis

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Sylvia Lee
Evelyn Gaiser
Joel Trexler
Peter Minchin

We developed diatom-based prediction models of hydrology and periphyton abundance to inform assessment tools for a hydrologically-managed wetland. Because hydrology is an important driver of ecosystem change, hydrologic alterations by restoration efforts could modify biological responses, such as periphyton characteristics. In karstic wetlands, diatoms are particularly important components of mat-forming calcareous periphyton assemblages that both respond and contribute to the structural organization and function of the periphyton matrix. We examined the distribution of diatoms across the Florida Everglades landscape and found hydroperiod and periphyton biovolume were strongly correlated with assemblage composition. Predictions of these variables were mapped to visualize landscape-scale spatial patterns in a dominant driver of change in this ecosystem (hydroperiod) and an ecosystem-level response metric of hydrologic change (periphyton biovolume). Specific diatom assemblages inhabiting periphyton mats of differing abundance can be used to infer past conditions and inform management decisions based on how assemblages are changing. Directional changes in diatom assemblages over five years were assessed using trajectory analysis.

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Background Photo by: Nicole Hansen - Jornada (JRN) LTER