Optical Characterization of Chromophoric Dissolved Organic Matter (CDOM) and Fe(II) Concentrations in Soil Porewaters Along a Channel-Bank Transect in a Salt Marsh

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Chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) optical properties were measured in surface and porewaters as a function of depth and distance from the channel in a transect up the bank in a southern California salt marsh. Higher absorbance coefficients and fluorescence intensities in porewaters at depth vs. surface waters and shallower porewaters suggest soil porewater is a reservoir of CDOM in the marsh. Higher values were observed at the marsh sites compared to the channel site, suggesting increased production and storage in the marsh sites, and reduced leaching into overlying surface waters, is occurring. Spectral slope ratios decreased with depth, consistent with more aromatic, higher molecular weight material in the deeper porewaters, possibly due to different bacterial processing in the anaerobic vs. aerobic zones. Fe(II) concentrations, indicative of anaerobic bacterial processing, increased significantly at depth to values > 1000 μM, consistent with active anaerobic microbial processing occurring at depth. The transitions to higher reduced iron concentrations correlated with increased absorbance and fluorescence, suggesting processing by anaerobic iron-reducing bacteria in these deeper zones may not mineralize as much carbon as in the shallower aerobic zones. Alternatively, this may be due to reduction of solid iron oxides coated with organic matter releasing both DOM and Fe(II). The ratio of humic-like fluorescence to the absorption coefficient decreased with increasing iron concentration, possibly due to optical interference by iron species. Taken together, the data indicate that marsh sites in the salt marsh act as a reservoir for higher molecular weight, more aromatic organic matter.


This article was originally published in Estuaries and Coasts, volume 42, in 2019. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-019-00558-6

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