Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC) and Hydrologic Mixing in a Subtropical Riverine Estuary, Southwest Florida, USA


Physical and chemical parameters were measured in a subtropical estuary with a blind river source in southwest Florida, United States, to assess seasonal discharge of overland flow and groundwater in hydrologic mixing. Water temperature, pH, salinity, alkalinity, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), δ18O, and δ13CDIC varied significantly due to seasonal rainfall and climate. Axial distribution of the physical and chemical parameters constrained by tidal conditions during sampling showed that river water at low tide was a mixture of freshwater from overland flow and saline groundwater in the wet season and mostly saline groundwater in the dry season. Relationships between salinity and temperature, δ18O, and DIC for both the dry and wet seasons showed that DIC was most sensitive to seawater mixing in the estuary as DIC changed in concentration between values measured in river water at the tidal front to the most seaward station. A salinity-δ13CDIC model was able to describe seawater mixing in the estuary for the wet season but not for the dry season because river water salinity was higher than that of seawater and the salinity gradient between seawater and river water was small. A DIC-δ13CDIC mixing model was able to describe mixing of carbon from sheet flow and river water at low tide, and river water and seawater at high tide for both wet and dry seasons. The DIC- δ13CDIC model was able to predict the seawater end member DIC for the wet season. The model was not able to predict the seawater end member DIC for the dry season data due to secondary physical and biogeochemical processes that altered estuarine DIC prior to mixing with seawater. The results of this study suggest that DIC and δ13CDIC can provide additional insights into mixing of river water and seawater in estuaries during periods where small salinity gradients between river water and seawater and higher river water salinities preclude the use of salinity-carbon models.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering


IUPUI (Campus). School of Science. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
IUPUI (Campus). Center for Earth and Environmental Science

Keywords and Phrases

Estuarine Dynamics; Freshwater; Inorganic Carbon; Mixing; Seawater; Water Chemistry; Florida; North America; United States

Geographic Coverage

Southwest Florida

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Document Type

Article - Journal

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© 2003 Estuarine Research Federation, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Dec 2003