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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2010

Modeling ecosystem responses to prescribed fires in a phosphorus-enriched Everglades wetland: I. Phosphorus dynamics and cattail recovery

Tian, Hanqin; Xu, Xiaofeng; Miao, Shili; Sindhoj, Erik; Beltran, Bray J.; Pan, Zhijian


We have developed and applied a process-based model, the Wetland Ecosystem Model (WEM), to evaluate the effects of a prescribed fire on the phosphorus (P) dynamics and cattail (Typha domingensis) growth in a P-enriched area in the Florida Everglades. The WEM couples major ecosystem processes including carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and P biogeochemical cycles, plant growth, hydrology, and fire disturbance. The model is used to assess the effects of a prescribed fire on P dynamics and cattail growth through dynamic interaction among four modules: fire, water chemistry, soil, and vegetation. The simulation results are in agreement with observed data including cattail above- and belowground biomass and dead mass, P concentration in surface-water, pore-water, and soil, and soil and water temperature. Cattail above-ground biomass reached the unburned level one year after burn; belowground biomass recovered to unburned level one and half years after the fire, however, dead mass did not completely reach unburned level two years after fires. The fire increased water and soil temperatures in the short term, while indirectly increasing the sensitivity of water and soil temperature post-fire response to air temperature by altering the energy exchange between air and water through a canopy gap created by fire. The fire also altered the P dynamics in surface-water and pore-water. A post-fire P pulse that lasted for less than one month was observed in surface-water. A similar P pulse, but in a small magnitude and a longer duration, was also observed in the pore-water total phosphorus (TP), and then came back to normal level after approximately three months. No significant changes in soil TP was observed during the study period. Meanwhile, no significant changes in water nutrients were observed downstream of the study plot. This finding indicated that the P-enriched wetlands in Everglades act as a buffer in regulating the P concentration in surface-water. Our study showed that the distance of fire effects on a 300 m x 300 m plot was less than 300 m downstream. Sensitivity analysis identified that the air temperature and hydrological conditions are two important driving factors which may alter the cattail community dynamics in response to prescribed fires. Similar to the filed studies, this study provided evidences that fire played an important role in managing plant growth and P dynamics in the Florida Everglades. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Cattail; Everglades; Fire; Phosphorus; Wetland Ecosystem Model (WEM)

Published in

Ecological Modelling
2010, volume: 221, number: 9, pages: 1252-1266

Authors' information

Sindhöj, Erik
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)