Can differences in phosphorus uptake kinetics explain the distribution of cattail and sawgrass in the Florida Everglades?

Plant Biology
By: , and 




Cattail (Typha domingensis) has been spreading in phosphorus (P) enriched areas of the oligotrophic Florida Everglades at the expense of sawgrass (Cladium mariscus spp. jamaicense). Abundant evidence in the literature explains how the opportunistic features of Typha might lead to a complete dominance in P-enriched areas. Less clear is how Typha can grow and acquire P at extremely low P levels, which prevail in the unimpacted areas of the Everglades.


Apparent P uptake kinetics were measured for intact plants of Cladium and Typha acclimated to low and high P at two levels of oxygen in hydroponic culture. The saturated rate of P uptake was higher in Typha than in Cladium and higher in low-P acclimated plants than in high-P acclimated plants. The affinity for P uptake was two-fold higher in Typha than in Cladium, and two- to three-fold higher for low-P acclimated plants compared to high-P acclimated plants. As Cladium had a greater proportion of its biomass allocated to roots, the overall uptake capacity of the two species at high P did not differ. At low P availability, Typhaincreased biomass allocation to roots more than Cladium. Both species also adjusted their P uptake kinetics, but Typha more so than Cladium. The adjustment of the P uptake system and increased biomass allocation to roots resulted in a five-fold higher uptake per plant for Cladium and a ten-fold higher uptake for Typha.


Both Cladium and Typha adjust P uptake kinetics in relation to plant demand when P availability is high. When P concentrations are low, however, Typha adjusts P uptake kinetics and also increases allocation to roots more so than Cladium, thereby improving both efficiency and capacity of P uptake. Cladium has less need to adjust P uptake kinetics because it is already efficient at acquiring P from peat soils (e.g., through secretion of phosphatases, symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, nutrient conservation growth traits). Thus, although Cladium and Typhahave qualitatively similar strategies to improve P-uptake efficiency and capacity under low P-conditions, Typha shows a quantitatively greater response, possibly due to a lesser expression of these mechanisms than Cladium. This difference between the two species helps to explain why an opportunistic species such as Typha is able to grow side by side with Cladium in the P-deficient Everglades.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Can differences in phosphorus uptake kinetics explain the distribution of cattail and sawgrass in the Florida Everglades?
Series title Plant Biology
DOI 10.1186/1471-2229-10-23
Volume 10
Issue 23
Year Published 2010
Language English
Publisher Springer Nature
Contributing office(s) National Wetlands Research Center, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 14 p.
First page 1
Last page 14
Country United States
State Florida
Other Geospatial Florida Everglades
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