FCE LTER Journal Articles


The coastal zone of the Florida Keys features the only living coral reef in the continental United States and as such represents a unique regional environmental resource. Anthropogenic pressures combined with climate disturbances such as hurricanes can affect the biogeochemistry of the region and threaten the health of this unique ecosystem. As such, water quality monitoring has historically been implemented in the Florida Keys, and six spatially distinct zones have been identified. In these studies however, dissolved organic matter (DOM) has only been studied as a quantitative parameter, and DOM composition can be a valuable biogeochemical parameter in assessing environmental change in coastal regions. Here we report the first data of its kind on the application of optical properties of DOM, in particular excitation emission matrix fluorescence with parallel factor analysis (EEM-PARAFAC), throughout these six Florida Keys regions in an attempt to assess spatial differences in DOM sources. Our data suggests that while DOM in the Florida Keys can be influenced by distant terrestrial environments such as the Everglades, spatial differences in DOM distribution were also controlled in part by local surface runoff/fringe mangroves, contributions from seasgrass communities, as well as the reefs and waters from the Florida Current. Application of principal component analysis (PCA) of the relative abundance of EEM-PARAFAC components allowed for a clear distinction between the sources of DOM (allochthonous vs. autochthonous), between different autochthonous sources and/or the diagenetic status of DOM, and further clarified contribution of terrestrial DOM in zones where levels of DOM were low in abundance. The combination between EEM-PARAFAC and PCA proved to be ideally suited to discern DOM composition and source differences in coastal zones with complex hydrology and multiple DOM sources.


The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.csr.2013.06.010

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.