GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 135-12
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM


ALLEN, Joshua M.1, PRICE, René M.2, FRANKOVICH, Thomas A.2, WHITMAN, Dean1 and FOURQUREAN, James W.3, (1)Department of Earth and Environment, Florida International University, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199, (2)Southeast Environmental Research Center, Florida International University, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199, (3)Dept. Biological Sciences and Southeast Environmental Research Center, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199,

Altered hydrologic conditions throughout the Florida Everglades have changed the relative importance of different nutrient pathways to the coastal estuaries. Brackish coastal groundwater discharge (CGD), driven by sea level rise and reduced freshwater input, has been shown to be enriched in total phosphorus, the limiting nutrient in the coastal Everglades. A major component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is to increase freshwater delivery to the southern coastal Everglades and adjacent bays, in an effort to restore a salinity and nutrient regime conducive for the development of submerged aquatic vegetation. This study is being conducted in the estuarine lakes that connect to Florida Bay west of Taylor Slough. The lakes comprise two distinct drainage systems; the Alligator Creek system (ACS) and the McCormick Creek system (MCS). A possible hydraulic connectivity between southern Taylor Slough and the mangrove lakes region to the west via overland flow and/or groundwater flow may provide additional unforeseen benefits of current restoration efforts to improve the drastically diminished water quality in this region.

Current hydrologic and chemical conditions are being established within the lakes in order to gain a better understanding of the effects of restoration efforts through time. Water chemistry in the lakes and groundwater is being monitored to determine the influence of groundwater-surface water exchange on salinity and nutrient conditions in the lakes. Preliminary data for this study suggests that the MCS to the east receives lower salinity groundwater than the ACS to the west. In addition, total phosphorus concentrations in the surface waters of the MCS (<1 µM) are far lower than those of the ACS (1 – 6 µM), suggesting a possible higher incidence of CGD in ACS. Surface water salinity varies seasonally in each lake, while groundwater salinity remains fairly constant. Groundwater salinity beneath each of the lakes in the ACS is consistently higher than surface water salinity, regardless of season. The results of this study can be used to assess the influence of restoration efforts on the hydrochemical conditions of downstream coastal areas affected by CGD and sea level rise.