FCE LTER Journal Articles


Organic Biogeochemistry of Detrital Flocculent Material (Floc) in a Subtropical, Coastal Wetland


Flocculent materials (floc), in aquatic systems usually consist of a non-consolidated layer of biogenic, detrital material relatively rich in organic matter which represents an important food-web component for invertebrates and fish. Thus, variations in its composition could impact food webs and change faunal structure. Transport, remineralization rates and deposition of floc may also be important factors in soil/sediment formation. In spite of its relevance and sensitivity to external factors, few chemical studies have been carried out on the biogeochemistry of floc material. In this study, we focused on the molecular characterization of the flocculent organic matter (OM), the assessment of its origin and its environmental fate at five stations along a freshwater to marine ecotone, namely the Taylor Slough, Everglades National Park (ENP), Florida. To tackle this issue, suspended, unconsolidated, detrital floc samples, soils/sediments and plants were analyzed for bulk properties, biomarkers and pigments. Both geochemical proxies and biomass-specific biomarkers were used to assess OM sources and transformations. Our results show that the detrital organic matter of the flocculent material is largely regulated by local vegetation inputs, ranging from periphyton, emergent and submerged plants and terrestrial plants such as mangroves, with molecular evidence of different degrees of diagenetic reworking, including fungal activity. Evidence is presented for both hydrodynamic transport of floc materials, and incorporation of floc OM into soils/sediments. However, some molecular parameters showed a decoupling between floc and underlying soil/sediment OM, suggesting that physical transport, incorporation and degradation/remineralization of OM in floc may be controlled by a combination of a variety of complex biogeochemical variables including hydrodynamic transport, hydroperiod characteristics, primary productivity, nutrient availability, and OM quality among others. Further investigations are needed to better understand the ecological role of floc in freshwater and coastal wetlands.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DBI-0620409 and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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