Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Gabriel A. Vargo, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Kent A. Fanning, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Paul R. Carlson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Peter Howd, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Karen Steidinger, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Laura Yarbro, Ph.D.


Phosphorus, Nitrogen, Chlorophyll, Mesocosm, Microphytobenthos


The objective of this study was to address the relationship between benthic microalgal communities and the phosphate nutrient dynamics of Florida Bay sediments and how they relate to benthic and water column primary production. In situ phosphate (P) flux between the sediment and the water column was measured in three regions of Florida Bay. Differences in the ratio of inorganic to organic phosphate flux were found between the three regions in relation to the amount of phosphate measured in the water column. Based upon the average sediment flux in my study, more than 1600 metric tons of P would be supplied by the sediment per year in Florida Bay.

Based upon my measurements, dissolved nutrient flux from the sediment can be an important contribution to pelagic phytoplankton blooms in Florida Bay, accounting for 6.5 - 41% of demand and TDN accounts for 100% of the N demand. My findings were similar to others for both benthic nutrient flux and benthic microalgal chlorophyll a concentration. Benthic microalgae in Florida Bay contribute 700 kg Chl a per day to the system.

Mesocosm experiments demonstrated that benthic microalgae and water column phytoplankton can respond differently to changes in nutrient availability. The dissolved nutrient in least supply in the water column does not necessarily correspond to the limiting nutrient for benthic microalgae.

³³P acted as a tracer between sediment and water column dissolved P pools. The presence of benthic microalgae enhanced the transport of ³³P to the water column as compared to simple Fickian diffusion. This was supported by the positive flux of dissolved P from the sediment to the water column pools in control treatments with a living benthic microalgal layer.

Primary production by benthic microalgae were measured using dissolved O2 evolution and PAM fluorometry. Primary production for BMA habitat in Florida Bay was between 400 and 800 tons of C per day, based upon O2 production and PAM fluorometry, respectively.