Environmental Chemistry Environmental Chemistry Society
Environmental problems - Chemical approaches
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Biomarker assessment of spatial and temporal changes in the composition of flocculent material (floc) in the subtropical wetland of the Florida Coastal Everglades

Oliva Pisani A C , J. William Louda B and Rudolf Jaffé A D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Southeast Environmental Research Center and Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199, USA.

B Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and The Environmental Sciences Program, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL 33431, USA.

C Present address: Department of Physical & Environmental Sciences, University of Toronto at Scarborough, Toronto, ON, M1C 1A4, Canada.

D Corresponding author. Email: jaffer@fiu.edu

Environmental Chemistry 10(5) 424-436 https://doi.org/10.1071/EN13062
Submitted: 21 March 2013  Accepted: 17 June 2013   Published: 20 August 2013

Environmental context. Flocculent material (floc) in freshwater and coastal areas of the Florida Everglades plays an important role in food web dynamics and nutrient cycling. Using biomarkers and pigment chemotaxonomy, we determined the organic matter composition of floc from different environments in the Everglades, and found that it is dominated by local biomass inputs and influenced by hydrological regimes. With the on-going restoration of the Florida Everglades, it is important to gain a better understanding of the biogeochemical dynamics of floc, including its sources, transformations and reactivity.

Abstract. Flocculent material (floc) is an important energy source in wetlands. In the Florida Everglades, floc is present in both freshwater marshes and coastal environments and plays a key role in food webs and nutrient cycling. However, not much is known about its environmental dynamics, in particular its biological sources and bio-reactivity. We analysed floc samples collected from different environments in the Florida Everglades and applied biomarkers and pigment chemotaxonomy to identify spatial and seasonal differences in organic matter sources. An attempt was made to link floc composition with algal and plant productivity. Spatial differences were observed between freshwater marsh and estuarine floc. Freshwater floc receives organic matter inputs from local periphyton mats, as indicated by microbial biomarkers and chlorophyll-a estimates. At the estuarine sites, the floc is dominated by mangrove as well as diatom inputs from the marine end-member. The hydroperiod (duration and depth of inundation) at the freshwater sites influences floc organic matter preservation, where the floc at the short-hydroperiod site is more oxidised likely due to periodic dry-down conditions. Seasonal differences in floc composition were not consistent and the few that were observed are likely linked to the primary productivity of the dominant biomass (periphyton in the freshwater marshes and mangroves in the estuarine zone). Molecular evidence for hydrological transport of floc material from the freshwater marshes to the coastal fringe was also observed. With the on-going restoration of the Florida Everglades, it is important to gain a better understanding of the biogeochemical dynamics of floc, including its sources, transformations and reactivity.

Additional keywords: estuarine, freshwater marsh, hydroperiod, mangrove, periphyton, pigment.


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