Potential availability of sedimentary phosphorus to sediment resuspension in Florida Bay

Jia Zhong Zhang, Charles J. Fischer, Peter B. Ortner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Several studies have suggested that phosphorus is a limiting nutrient for seagrass and phytoplankton growth in much of Florida Bay. In fact, soluble reactive phosphate concentrations in Florida Bay waters can be as low as a few nM. Sediments represent the largest phosphorus reservoir because Florida Bay sediments are dominated by carbonate, which has a strong capacity to retain phosphorus. The supply of phosphorus to the water column from sediment resuspension is potentially important in providing the nutrients required for phytoplankton production. Applying an improved sequential extraction technique to sediments collected from 40 geographically representative stations in Florida Bay, this study provides the first detailed spatial distribution of total sedimentary phosphorus (TSP) and its partitioning into five chemically distinguishable pools in the surface, fine-grained sediments of the bay. A strong gradient of decreasing TSP concentration was observed from the west (14.6 μmol g-1) to east (1.2 μmol g-1) across the central bay. The spatial pattern of TSP is consistent with distribution of both seagrass and phytoplankton that are limited by available phosphorus in Florida Bay. Among the five pools, the authigenic carbonate fluorapatite, biogenic apatite and CaCO3-bound phosphorus account for the largest fraction (45%) of TSP, of which inorganic phosphorus is the dominant form, and organic phosphorus accounts for about 30% in the western and north central regions and less than 10% in other areas of Florida Bay. The second largest pools are the refractory organic phosphorus (24% of TSP) and reductant-soluble inorganic phosphorus (19% of TSP). Readily exchangeable phosphorus accounts for 8% of TSP, of which organic phosphorus is 60%. Detrital apatite phosphorus of igneous or metamorphic origin represents the smallest fraction, only 5% of TSP. Spatial distribution of phosphorus and iron in sediments indicates that external sources of these two essential plant nutrients to Florida Bay are spatially separated with phosphorus introduced by west coast waters across the western margin of Florida Bay and iron from freshwater flow into the eastern region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Florida Bay
  • Phosphorus
  • Sediment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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