Origin, transport and fate of organic matter in Florida Bay: A biomarker record of historical environmental changes

Yunping Xu, Florida International University


The Everglades are undergoing the world largest wetland restoration project with the aim of returning this system to hydrological conditions in place prior to anthropogenic modifications. Therefore, it is essential to know what these pristine conditions were. In this work, molecular marker (biomarker) distributions and carbon stable isotopic signatures in sediment samples were employed to assess historical environmental changes in Florida Bay over approximately the last 4000 years. Two biomarkers of terrestrial plants, particularly for mangroves (taraxerol and C29 n-alkane), combined with two seagrass proxies (the Paq and the C25/C 27 n-alkan-2-one ratio) revealed a sedimentary environmental shift from freshwater marshes to mangrove swamps and then to seagrass dominated marine ecosystems, likely as a result of sea-level rise in Florida Bay since the Holocene. The maximum values for the Paq and the C 25/C27 n-alkan-2-ones occurred during the 20th century, suggesting that the greatest abundance of seagrass cover is a recent rather than a historical, long-term phenomenon. The greater oscillation in frequency and amplitude for the biomarkers after 1900 potentially reflects an ecosystem under increasing anthropogenic stress. Several algal biomarkers such as C20 highly branched isoprenoids (HBIs), C 25 HBIs and dinosterol indicative of cyanobacteria, diatom and dinoflagellate organic matter inputs respectively, increased dramatically in the latter part of the 20th century and were attributed to recent anthropogenic changes in Florida Bay. The highlight of this work is the development of HBIs as paleo-proxies. As biomarkers of diatoms, the C25 HBIs in the core from the central bay displayed the highest concentration at mid depth, reflecting strong historical inputs of diatom-derived sedimentary OM during that period. In fact, the depth profile of C25 HBIs coincided quite well with historical variations in diatom abundance and variations in diatom species composition in central Florida Bay based on the results of fossil diatom species analysis by microscopy. This study provides evidence that some C25 HBIs can be applied as biomarkers for certain diatom inputs in paleoenvironmental studies. The sources of C20 and C30 HBIs and their potential applicability as paleo-proxies were also investigated and their sources assessed based on their δ13C distributions.

Subject Area

Analytical chemistry|Biogeochemistry|Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Xu, Yunping, "Origin, transport and fate of organic matter in Florida Bay: A biomarker record of historical environmental changes" (2005). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3206039.