September 6, 2019
Journal Article

Initiation and development of wetlands in southern Florida karst landscape associated with accumulation of organic matter and vegetation evolution

Xiaowen Zhang
Thomas Bianchi
Matthew Cohen
Jonathan Martin
Carlos Quintero
Amy Brown
Angelica Ares
Nicholas Ward
Todd Osborne
James Heffernan
Michael Shields
William Kenney
Biological processes can exert important controls on geomorphic evolution in karst landscapes, because carbonate mineral dissolution is augmented and spatially focused by the production of CO2 and biogenic acids from organic matter (OM) decomposition. In Big Cypress National Preserve (BICY) in southwest Florida (USA), depressional wetlands embedded in a mosaic of pine uplands exhibit regular patterning. To understand the impact of OM decomposition as well as different OM sources on carbonate dissolution and landscape patterning, we measured bulk OM property and biomarker proxies (fatty acids and lignin phenols) in different zones (center vs. edge) of the depressional wetlands. We also constructed age profiles of sediment accretion and pattern genesis using 210Pb activities and compound- specific radiocarbon analysis (CSRA) of long-chain fatty acids. Bulk OM and biomarker data indicate rapid OM accumulation in wetland centers resulting from high primary production and near permanent inundation, in contrast to negligible OM accumulation at wetland edges. Age discontinuities suggest episodic periods of near complete OM loss due to decomposition and/or fire. Based on CSRA, landscape patterning likely initiated in the mid-to-late Holocene, with wetlands at slight higher elevation initiated earlier than wetlands at lower elevation. Bulk stable isotope and lignin phenol biomarkers indicate wetland vegetation was initially dominated by herbaceous species and shifted to woody dominated vegetation as landscape hydrology adjusted to changing precipitation. The rate of weathering is likely impacted by hydrological conditions, vegetation dynamics and environmental perturbations like precipitation and fires, suggesting that this karst landscape is a manifestation of complex ecosystem feedbacks.

Revised: September 6, 2019 | Published: June 3, 2019

Zhang X., T.S. Bianchi, M. Cohen, J. Martin, C. Quintero, A. Brown, and A. Ares, et al. 2019. "Initiation and development of wetlands in southern Florida karst landscape associated with accumulation of organic matter and vegetation evolution." Journal of Geophysical Research. Biogeosciences 124, no. 6:1604-1617. PNNL-SA-136524. doi:10.1029/2018JG004921