National Park Service

South Florida/Caribbean I&M Network (SFCN)

Periphyton Monitoring

Periphyton in Big Cypress National Preserve
Periphyton in Big Cypress National Preserve.

Monitoring Reports

Protocol

The SFCN periphyton monitoring protocol is currently under development.

Resource Briefs, Reports, and Data

There are currently no additional SFCN resource briefs, reports, or data concerning this monitoring topic.

Importance/Issues

Periphyton 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 Objectives

What are the status and trends in periphyton community composition, structure, and nutrient content, especially in response to alterations in water quality and water management (quantity, timing, duration)?

Status and Trends

Figure  1. The 46 sites sampled for periphyton in November 2012. As indicated by community analyses, sites with a diatom community representative of an unimpacted wetland are color-coded in green, while those color-coded in red have a diatom community characteristic of a nutrient-impacted wetland. Sites shown in yellow represent a community that is either shifting from good (unimpacted) to bad (impacted) or vice-versa. Basins are shown in blue if most sites within it are determined to be unimpacted and shown in red if most sites are determined to be impacted
Figure 1. The 46 sites sampled for periphyton in November 2012. As indicated by community analyses, sites with a diatom community representative of an unimpacted wetland are color-coded in green, while those color-coded in red have a diatom community characteristic of a nutrient-impacted wetland. Sites shown in yellow represent a community that is either shifting from good (unimpacted) to bad (impacted) or vice-versa. Basins are shown in blue if most sites within it are determined to be unimpacted and shown in red if most sites are determined to be impacted.

Big Cypress National Preserve

In November 2012, the SFCN conducted its fifth sampling for periphyton in BICY. The main goal of the fifth-year sampling was to detect any significant temporal shifts in diatom community structure at sites throughout the northwest portion of the preserve. Periphyton samples were collected from 46 sites consecutively sampled for the past three years, including three locations proposed by BICY staff for future water-quality monitoring stations (Figure 1). Collection sites were located within seven designated basins and were accessed by helicopter and ATVs. Samples were preserved in 10% formalin and sent to Dr. R. Jan Stevenson at Michigan State University (MSU) for diatom counts and identification.

Multivariate ordination analyses of community structure were performed on the November 2012 samples and a significant difference in the diatom communities among basins was found (Analysis of Similarity, Global R = 0.325, P = 0.001). Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling (NMDS), a graphical representation of these analyses, corroborates the results (Figure 2). Cluster analysis indicates percentage similarities among sites; these similarities are represented by circles which enclose their corresponding sites. Figure 2 illustrates this with circles that enclose sites which are 20%, 40%, 60% and 80% similar in their diatom community composition.

With the exception of two sites, diatom communities from the Kissimmee Billy Strand basin continue to be more similar in composition to those from sites in unimpacted basins south of I-75 (e.g., East Crossing Strand, Monument), despite a relatively high TP signature in the water column. Likewise, diatom communities in the Kissimmee Billy East (KBE) basin, a seventh basin added last year, were once again similar to those from sites in unimpacted basins. KBE was initially selected a priori as a potentially impacted basin because of high TP levels in the water column.

Figure  2. Ordination graph created by non-metric multi-dimensional scaling (NMDS) of diatom assemblages found in the November 2012 periphyton samples. Circles represent similarity percentages based on cluster analysis
Figure 2. Ordination graph created by non-metric multi-dimensional scaling (NMDS) of diatom assemblages found in the November 2012 periphyton samples. Circles represent similarity percentages based on cluster analysis.

Analysis of Similarity (ANOSIM) of diatom data for four consecutive water-years (2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012) demonstrated a consistency in the separation between impacted and unimpacted sites (grouped as basins) throughout the years. This separation is driven by a change in relative abundance of diatom species. Figure 3 illustrates a graphical representation of this separation through NMDS; a dashed line is used to distinguish sites dominated by unimpacted taxa from those dominated by impacted taxa (as determined by Indicator Species Analysis). There is also a noticeable separation of the 2009 samples whereas the 2010, 2011, and 2012 samples overlap to a great extent.

A new Microsoft Access database that uses the Natural Resource Database Template was created for this vital sign. The database includes data-entry forms that were used to input five years of fieldwork. The corresponding five years of diatom counts from MSU were then imported and linked. Additionally, geospatial data including sites, basins, and data-collection coordinates were also included in the database. Several queries have been developed already to facilitate ordination analysis, with additional automated reporting expected in FY14. The SFCN has produced a first draft for the Periphyton Protocol in the summer of FY13 which is undergoing internal review. The SFCN staff spent 104 field-hours working on this vital sign.

Figure  3. Ordination graph created by non-metric multi-dimensional scaling (NMDS) of diatom assemblages found in the November 2012 periphyton samples. Circles represent similarity percentages based on cluster analysis
Figure 3. Ordination graph created by non-metric multi-dimensional scaling (NMDS) of diatom assemblages found in the November 2012 periphyton samples. Circles represent similarity percentages based on cluster analysis.

In 2014, the SFCN will continue to revisit previously sampled sites at each of the original six basins. Additional sites will be added to the more recent seventh basin, KBE, in order to characterize a broader area of the basin. A newly-designated basin, Bear Island, will be sampled to characterize a large area that has not been previously assessed. The Bear Island basin lies between the Okaloacoochee Slough and East Hinson Marsh basins (to the west) and the Kissimmee Billy Strand basin (to the east) (Figure 1). Investigation of diatom communities in this newly-added basin is important because it would attempt to detect any gradient present between the impacted diatom communities to the west and the unimpacted ones to the east. A total of 44 sites will be visited and two periphyton mat samples will be collected at each site: one for diatom assessment and one for TP content. Dr. R. Jan Stevenson of MSU will continue to process samples for diatoms. Dr. Evelyn Gaiser of Florida International University will process the second set of samples for TP content. Statistical analyses of both site diatom community composition and corresponding mat total phosphorus will allow for correlations between the two parameters.

Everglades National Park

Status and trends for this vital sign are reported as part of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force 2010 System-wide Ecological Indicators for Everglades Restoration (See page 28–29 in this report) and the RECOVER: 2009 System Status Report.

Approach

Periphyton is easily collected as part of monitoring for other indicators but travel costs would prohibit monitoring it in isolation. Thus periphyton monitoring would be conducted in concert with monitoring for Freshwater fish and large macro-invertebrates vital sign and could also be collected together with coastal wetland monitoring (e.g., Vital Signs: Mangrove-Marsh Ecotone, Coastal Geomorphology).

Shark River Slough and Taylor Slough

SFCN is assuming that CERP MAP funded monitoring of these areas through Evelyn Gaiser of FIU and Scott Hagerthey of SFWMD is sufficient. SFCN hopes to get copies of the reports for this monitoring or provide links to CERP's web pages regarding this indicator.

Big Cypress

Periphyton in northwestern Big Cypress will be monitored by SFCN in concert with monitoring freshwater fish and macro-invertebrates in freshwater prairies and marshes, i.e., periphyton samples would be taken at the same time as fish sampling occurs to save on the considerable travel costs (helicopter). A single monitoring protocol "Freshwater Fish, invertebrates, and periphyton" will be developed. The sampling design should at a minimum be designed to detect changes due to alterations in hydrology and nutrients to the north and northwest of the park. A pilot study is needed to determine the range of variability in periphyton in the area and estimate appropriate sample sizes. If monitoring can be cost-effectively expanded into other areas of Big Cypress, SFCN will explore doing so.

Other areas

Currently there is not sufficient funding, but additional areas for expansion in the future in order of priority would include: Biscayne Coastal Wetlands, EVER's marl prairies, and Florida Bay coastal wetlands.

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Last Updated: March 28, 2017 Contact Webmaster