Publication Date


Document Type



Biology | Chemistry


Published in Oikos 55:175-182, 1989.


We present evidence for residual nutrient enrichment of diverse components of a blackwater marsh, by a biotic component of the ecosystem itself. Thousands of nesting white ibis (Eudocimus albus) that foraged over a 20-km radius fertilized a rookery with guano within Okefenokee Swamp. Georgia. USA. One to two yr after the birds abandoned it. this marsh showed continued enrichment effects. Elevated available phosphorus in sediments, as measured by equilibrium phosphate concentration, contributed to enhanced biomass of phytoplankton in the overlying water column. Planktivorous fish were greater in biomass than at reference sites. Experimental phosphorus and nitrogen fertilization of enclosures at a reference site (at levels representing residual enrichment after birds had left) caused zooplankton biomass to increase significantly. These results demonstrate that this blackwater ecosystem was macronutrient limited, and manifested residual enrichment effects of wading birds on sediments, and a positive effect of sediments on phytoplankton. Results also suggest further indirect positive effects of birds on higher trophic levels (zooplankton and fish), via macronutrient transfers.