Organic and inorganic carbon dynamics in a karst aquifer: Santa Fe River Sink-Rise system, north Florida, USA



Spatiotemporal variations in dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), major ions concentrations and other geochemical parameters including stable carbon isotopes of DIC (δ13CDIC), were measured in surface water and deep and shallow well water samples of the Santa Fe River Sink-Rise eogenetic karst system, north Florida, USA. Three end-member water sources were identified: one DOC-rich/DIC-poor/δ13CDIC-depleted, one DOC-poor/DIC-rich/δ13CDIC-enriched, and one enriched in major ions. Given their spatiotemporal distributions, they were presumed to represent soil water, upper aquifer groundwater, and deep aquifer water sources, respectively. Using assumed ratios of Na+, Cl, and SO42− for each end-member, a mixing model calculated the contribution of each water source to each sample. Then, chemical effects of biogeochemical reactions were calculated as the difference between those predicted by the mixing model and measured species concentrations. In general, carbonate mineral dissolution occurred throughout the Sink-Rise system, surface waters were net autotrophic and the subsurface was in metabolic balance, i.e., no net DOC or DIC production or consumption. However, there was evidence for chemolithoautotrophy, perhaps by hydrogen oxidizing microbes, at some deep aquifer sites. Mineralization of this autochthonous natural dissolved organic matter (NDOM) led to localized carbonate dissolution as did surface water-derived NDOM supplied to shallow well sites during the highest flow periods. This study demonstrates linkages between hydrology, abiotic and microbial processes and carbon dynamics and has important implications for groundwater quality, karst morphologic evolution, and hydrogeologic projects such as aquifer storage and recovery in karst systems.