Tidal Marshes as Pulsing Systems: New Estimates of Marsh-Carbon Export and Fate

Laura Ann Logozzo1, Patrick Neale2, Maria Tzortziou3, Natalie Nelson4 and Patrick Megonigal2, (1)CUNY City College, New York, NY, United States, (2)Smithsonian Env Research Ctr, Edgewater, MD, United States, (3)CUNY City College of New York, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, New York, NY, United States, (4)University of Florida, Ft Walton Beach, FL, United States
We investigated wetland-estuarine exchanges of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM), dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), and chlorophyll a (chl a) in the Chesapeake Bay Kirkpatrick wetlands, an ecosystem that is representative of brackish marshes with organic-rich soils in North America. 1 L water samples were collected every hour over multiple semidiurnal tidal cycles (24 h deployments) and the flow was continuously measured every minute over the course of the study. DIC samples were collected and filtered on site. Fluxes were estimated using the measured flow and concentrations of biogeochemical variables (DOC, DIC, and chl a as a measure of algal biomass). aCDOM(300) was used as a proxy for CDOM amount to observe variations over two semidiurnal tidal cycles. Relative to high tide water, low tide water was consistently enriched in DOC, DIC, and CDOM, whereas it was consistently depleted in chl a. Initial estimates of fluxes over the tidal cycle showed net export of DIC and DOC from the marsh, and net import of chl a into the marsh. These results are consistent with DOC flux estimates from previous studies, but our method utilizes high temporal resolution flow measurements, improving flux estimate accuracy. Transect sampling from the marsh into the sub-estuary during ebbing tide indicated a strong negative gradient in a­CDOM­(300) and non-conservative mixing with salinity. The observed gradients in CDOM absorption spectral shape (slope and slope ratios) and the relative changes in the major fluorescence components identified in 3D fluorescence excitation-emission-matrices, indicated strong photochemical degradation in the estuary and a shift from higher to lower molecular-weight organic compounds. The weaker gradients observed for DOC and DIC compared to aCDOM(300) indicate that while microbial degradation does occur, photobleaching is the dominant degradation mechanism for CDOM in the estuary.