Journal of environmental quality

Enzyme-based resource allocated decomposition and landscape heterogeneity in the Florida Everglades.

PMID 18453420


Enzyme catalyzed reactions are generally considered the rate-limiting step in organic matter degradation and may be significantly influenced by the structure and composition of plant communities. Changes in these rates have the potential to effect long-term peat accumulation and influence the topography of a wetland ecosystem. To determine habitat influences on enzyme activities, we examined slough and sawgrass plots within enriched and reference phosphorus (P) sites in the Everglades. Assays were performed for the enzymes involved in carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and P cycling and lignin depolymerization. Enzyme activities were normalized and analyzed in terms of a resource allocation strategy. Plant composition was found to significantly alter the allocation of enzymatic resources due to varying substrate complexities. Potential decomposition in the slough was less influenced by lignin than in the sawgrass habitats. Additionally, an index relating hydrolytic and oxidative enzymes was significantly greater in the slough habitats, whereas C/N ratios were significantly lower. These indices suggest more favorable decomposition conditions and thus slower peat accretion within the slough communities, which may contribute to the development of elevation differences within the sawgrass ridge and slough topography of the Everglades.

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