Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Advisor's Name

Rudolf Jaffe

Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Advisor's Name

Yong Cai

Advisor's Name

Joseph Boyer

Advisor's Name

David Chatfield

Advisor's Name

Kenneth Furton


dissolved organic matter, sources, transformations, photo-degradation, bio-degradation, groundwater, seasonality, size distribution, Everglades

Date of Defense



Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is one of the largest carbon reservoirs on this planet and is present in aquatic environments as a highly complex mixture of organic compounds. The Florida coastal Everglades (FCE) is one of the largest wetlands in the world. DOM in this system is an important biogeochemical component as most of the nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) are in organic forms. Achieving a better understanding of DOM dynamics in large coastal wetlands is critical, and a particularly important issue in the context of Everglades restoration.

In this work, the environmental dynamics of surface water DOM on spatial and temporal scales was investigated. In addition, photo- and bio-reactivity of this DOM was determined, surface-to-groundwater exchange of DOM was investigated, and the size distribution of freshwater DOM in Everglades was assessed. The data show that DOM dynamics in this ecosystem are controlled by both hydrological and ecological drivers and are clearly different on spatial scales and variable seasonally. The DOM reactivity data, modeled with a multi-pool first order degradation kinetics model, found that fluorescent DOM in FCE is generally photo-reactive and bio-refractory. Yet the sequential degradation proved a “priming effect” of sunlight on the bacterial uptake and reworking of this subtropical wetland DOM. Interestingly, specific PARAFAC components were found to have different photo- and bio-degradation rates, suggesting a highly heterogeneous nature of fluorophores associated with the DOM. Surface-to-groundwater exchange of DOM was observed in different regions of the system, and compositional differences were associated with source and photo-reactivity. Lastly, the high degree of heterogeneity of DOM associated fluorophores suggested based on the degradation studies was confirmed through the EEM-PARAFAC analysis of DOM along a molecular size continuum, suggesting that the fluorescence characteristics of DOM are highly controlled by different size fractions and as such can exhibit significant differences in reactivity.