What is Periphyton?

The basic primordial funk of life in the Everglades is Periphyton, a spongy mass of submerged bacteria, microbes, algae, decomposing vegetation, and assorted fecund matter that attaches to any surface it runs into; parlaying its feast of earthly flesh into a terra-not-so-firma that protects and serves the entire chain of life and food web of the various ecosystems where it’s found.

It’s life and death in perfect harmony. Yin and yang and the orchestral score of evolutionary biology.

Just as the seagrass forms the nursery of the ocean, so does Periphyton offer the tiniest creatures of the glades a basic building block to feed upon and hide within.

Tadpoles, minnows, and micro-snails, they all crunch and munch their way through this veritable smorgasbord; an all you can eat buffet for carnivores and vegetarians alike. As the creatures hiding in its epic gardens grow, they get eaten by bigger creatures who are eaten by bigger creatures, who are eaten by even bigger creatures.

Periphyton collects around a solution hole in Everglades National Park – ©Jacob Katel. all rights reserved

The chain links back to itself as the apex predator eventually dies and its decay helps to feed the next batch of periphyton, whose subjective ugliness exists in diametric opposition to the beauty it helps produce. It’s a wonderful life.

Thanks Periphyton!

By Jacob Katel

Diving into news about water.