Assessing Environmental Drivers of DOC Fluxes in the Shark River Estuary: Modeling the Effects of Climate, Hydrology and Water Management

Peter Regier1,2, Henry Briceno3 and Rudolf Jaffe1,3, (1)Florida International University, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Miami, FL, United States, (2)Florida International University, Southeast Environmental Research Center and Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Miami, FL, United States, (3)Florida International University, Southeast Environmental Research Center, Miami, FL, United States
Urban and agricultural development of the South Florida peninsula has disrupted freshwater flow in the Everglades, a hydrologically connected ecosystem stretching from central Florida to the Gulf of Mexico. Current system-scale restoration efforts aim to restore natural hydrologic regimes to reestablish pre-drainage ecosystem functioning through increased water availability, quality and timing. However, it is uncertain how hydrologic restoration combined with climate change will affect the downstream section of the system, including the mangrove estuaries of Everglades National Park. Aquatic transport of carbon, primarily as dissolved organic carbon (DOC), plays a critical role in biogeochemical cycling and food-web dynamics, and will be affected both by water management policies and climate change. To better understand DOC dynamics in these estuaries and how hydrology, climate and water management may affect them, 14 years of monthly data collected in the Shark River estuary were used to build a DOC flux model. Multi-variate methods were applied to long-term data-sets for hydrology, water quality and climate to untangle the interconnected environmental drivers that control DOC export at intra and inter-annual scales. DOC fluxes were determined to be primarily controlled by hydrology but also by seasonality and long-term climate patterns. Next, a 4-component model (salinity, inflow, rainfall, Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation) capable of predicting DOC fluxes (R2=0.78, p<0.0001, n=161) was established. Finally, potential climate change scenarios for the Everglades were applied to this model to assess DOC flux variations in response to climate and restoration variables. Although global predictions anticipate that DOC export will generally increase in the future, the majority of scenario runs indicated that DOC export from the Everglades is expected to decrease due to changes in rainfall, evapotranspiration, inflows and sea-level rise.