Application of biomarkers and compound specific stable isotopes for the assessment of hydrology as a driver of organic matter dynamics in the Everglades ecosystem

Ding He, Florida International University


The Everglades is a sub-tropical coastal wetland characterized among others by its hydrological features and deposits of peat. Formation and preservation of organic matter in soils and sediments in this wetland ecosystem is critical for its sustainability and hydrological processes are important divers in the origin, transport and fate of organic matter. With this in mind, organic matter dynamics in the greater Florida Everglades was studied though various organic geochemistry techniques, especially biomarkers, bulk and compound specific δ13C and δD isotope analysis. The main objectives were focused on how different hydrological regimes in this ecosystem control organic matter dynamics, such as the mobilization of particulate organic matter (POM) in freshwater marshes and estuaries, and how organic geochemistry techniques can be applied to reconstruct Everglades paleo-hydrology. For this purpose organic matter in typical vegetation, floc, surface soils, soil cores, and estuarine suspended particulates were characterized in samples selected along hydrological gradients in the Water Conservation Area 3, Shark River Slough and Taylor Slough. This research focused on three general themes: (1) Assessment of the environmental dynamics and source-specific particulate organic carbon export in a mangrove-dominated estuary. (2) Assessment of the origin, transport and fate of organic matter in freshwater marsh. (3) Assessment of historical changes in hydrological conditions in the Everglades (paleo-hydrology) though biomarkes and compound specific isotope analyses. This study reports the first estimate of particulate organic carbon loss from mangrove ecosystems in the Everglades, provides evidence for particulate organic matter transport with regards to the formation of ridge and slough landscapes in the Everglades, and demonstrates the applicability of the combined biomarker and compound-specific stable isotope approach as a means to generate paleohydrological data in wetlands. The data suggests that: (1) Carbon loss from mangrove estuaries is roughly split 50/50 between dissolved and particulate carbon; (2) hydrological remobilization of particulate organic matter from slough to ridge environments may play an important role in the maintenance of the Everglades freshwater landscape; and (3) Historical changes in hydrology have resulted in significant vegetation shifts from historical slough type vegetation to present ridge type vegetation.

Subject Area

Biogeochemistry|Analytical chemistry|Organic chemistry

Recommended Citation

He, Ding, "Application of biomarkers and compound specific stable isotopes for the assessment of hydrology as a driver of organic matter dynamics in the Everglades ecosystem" (2014). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3644772.