Spatial and temporal variability of dissolved organic matter quantity and composition in an oligotrophic subtropical coastal wetland

Meilian Chen, Nagamitsu Maie, Kathleen Parish, Rudolf Jaffé*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is an essential component of the carbon cycle and a critical driver in controlling variety of biogeochemical and ecological processes in wetlands. The quality of this DOM as it relates to composition and reactivity is directly related to its sources and may vary on temporal and spatial scales. However, large scale, long-term studies of DOM dynamics in wetlands are still scarce in the literature. Here we present a multi-year DOM characterization study for monthly surface water samples collected at 14 sampling stations along two transects within the greater Everglades, a subtropical, oligotrophic, coastal freshwater wetland-mangrove-estuarine ecosystem. In an attempt to assess quantitative and qualitative variations of DOM on both spatial and temporal scales, we determined dissolved organic carbon (DOC) values and DOM optical properties, respectively. DOM quality was assessed using, excitation emission matrix (EEM) fluorescence coupled with parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC). Variations of the PARAFAC components abundance and composition were clearly observed on spatial and seasonal scales. Dry versus wet season DOC concentrations were affected by dry-down and re-wetting processes in the freshwater marshes, while DOM compositional features were controlled by soil and higher plant versus periphyton sources respectively. Peat-soil based freshwater marsh sites could be clearly differentiated from marl-soil based sites based on EEM-PARAFAC data. Freshwater marsh DOM was enriched in higher plant and soil-derived humic-like compounds, compared to estuarine sites which were more controlled by algae- and microbial-derived inputs. DOM from fringe mangrove sites could be differentiated between tidally influenced sites and sites exposed to long inundation periods. As such coastal estuarine sites were significantly controlled by hydrology, while DOM dynamics in Florida Bay were seasonally driven by both primary productivity and hydrology. This study exemplifies the application of long term optical properties monitoring as an effective technique to investigate DOM dynamics in aquatic ecosystems. The work presented here also serves as a pre-restoration condition dataset for DOM in the context of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-183
Number of pages17
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • DOM
  • Everglades
  • Spatial and temporal variations
  • Wetland

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