Tracking the fate of a high concentration groundwater nitrate plume through a fringing marsh: A combined groundwater tracer and in situ isotope enrichment study

MJ Church
HW Ducklow
DM Karl


The inventories and dynamics of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the surface water at Station ALOHA were analyzed from the Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT) data set for the period 1989-1999. Euphotic zone, depth-integrated (0-175 m) concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), nitrogen (DON), and phosphorus (DOP) were temporally variable. In particular, during the period 1993-1999, concentrations of DOC and DON increased while inventories of DOP remained unchanged. DOC inventories increased by 303 mmol C m(-2) yr(-1), a value equivalent to approximately 2% of measured primary production (C-14 method) at this site. DON increased at 11 mmol N m(-2) yr(-1), resulting in a mean molar DOC : DON ratio of 27.5 for the accumulated DOM. Accumulation of DOC and DON without corresponding accumulation of DOP resulted in changes to the bulk organic C : N : P stoichiometry; bulk DOC : DOP ratios increased 16% and DON: DOP ratios increased by 17%. These results indicate that a small fraction of the annually produced organic matter escaped biological utilization on time scales of months to years. More importantly, the accumulated DOM inventories grew progressively enriched in C and N relative to P. Fundamental changes in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG) habitat appear to have altered microbial processes that regulate organic matter fluxes. Considered together, the long-term increases in DOC and DON inventories are consistent with previous observations, indicating that a recent reorganization of plankton community dynamics may have altered organic matter cycling in this ecosystem.