Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopic patterns in South Florida coastal ecosystems: Modern and paleoceanographic perspectives

Samantha L Evans, Florida International University


Long term management plans for restoration of natural flow conditions through the Everglades increase the importance of understanding potential nutrient impacts of increased freshwater delivery on coastal biogeochemistry. The present study sought to increase understanding of the coastal marine system of South Florida under modern conditions and through the anthropogenic changes in the last century, on scales ranging from individual nutrient cycle processes to seasonal patterns in organic material (OM) under varying hydrodynamic regime, to century scale analysis of sedimentary records. In all applications, carbon and nitrogen stable isotopic compositions of OM were examined as natural recorders of change and nutrient cycling in the coastal system. ^ High spatial and temporal variability in stable isotopic compositions were observed on all time scales. During a transient phytoplankton bloom, δ 15N values suggested nitrogen fixation as a nutrient source supporting enhanced productivity. Seasonally, particulate organic material (POM) from ten sites along the Florida Reef Tract and in Florida Bay demonstrated variable fluctuations dependent on hydrodynamic setting. Three separate intra-annual patterns were observed, yet statistical differences were observed between groupings of Florida Bay and Atlantic Ocean sites. The POM δ 15N values ranged on a quarterly basis by 7‰, while δ 13C varied by 22‰. From a sediment history perspective, four cores collected from Florida Bay further demonstrated the spatial and temporal variability of the system in isotopic composition of bulk OM over time. Source inputs of OM varied with location, with terrestrial inputs dominating proximal to Everglades freshwater discharge, seagrasses dominating in open estuary cores, and a marine mixture of phytoplankton and seagrass in a core from the boundary zone between Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Significant shifts in OM geochemistry were observed coincident with anthropogenic events of the 20th century, including railroad and road construction in the Florida Keys and Everglades, and also the extensive drainage changes in Everglades hydrology. The sediment record also preserved evidence of the major hurricanes of the last century, with excursions in geochemical composition coincident with Category 4-5 storms. ^

Subject Area

Chemical Oceanography|Biogeochemistry|Geochemistry

Recommended Citation

Evans, Samantha L, "Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopic patterns in South Florida coastal ecosystems: Modern and paleoceanographic perspectives" (2009). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3388196.