|LTER researchers sample a throw trap used to study the dynamics of small fish and invertebrate communities
In the Everglades, small fish, shrimp and other organisms eat periphyton and floc at the base of the food web and, in turn, become food for large fish, birds and alligators. Each of the players in this food web is both directly and indirectly affected by the amount of nutrients and water in the ecosystem. Such trophic dynamics are of particular interest to FCE-LTER scientists. In Phase III of the FCE-LTER project, researchers are investigating how sea level rise will interact with changes in fresh water inflows to modify food webs and the spatial scale of consumer-mediated habitat linkages. Researchers are trying to track the flow of periphyton and floc into tiny and large consumers using biogeochemical tracers and experimental manipulations of food and consumer supplies. They are using acoustic telemetry to determine the movement and transport of materials by large consumers including Florida gar, snook, American alligators, and bull sharks.
Photo by Joel Trexler
How do these factors affect people in south Florida?
The large consumers, like fishes, are the reason that many people visit the Everglades. Knowing what determines the distribution of these animals will help people to enjoy the ecosystem and help managers ensure that it remains a wonderful recreational area for generations to come.