Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Paula G. Coble


canonical analysis of principal coordinates (CAP), excitation-emission matrix (EEM), Kings Bay, FL, parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC), submarine groundwater discharge (SGD), subterranean estuary (STE)


Optical parameters measured via absorption spectroscopy and high-resolution fluorescence spectroscopy were used to characterize dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the springshed of Kings Bay, a spring-fed estuary located on Florida's Springs Coast. Over the past 40 years, springs supplying groundwater to Kings Bay have shown an increase in nitrate concentration. The overall goal of this project was to fingerprint wells and spring sites with elevated nitrogen concentrations using CDOM optical properties and establish relationships between nutrient and optical parameters. Samples were obtained from various sites: springs, Kings Bay surface (KBS), wells, coastal waters in and at the mouth of Crystal River (Coast) and lakes and rivers (LNR), during dry and wet seasons.

The relationships between the environmental parameters and traditional optical parameters which provide insight into source characteristics were analyzed. Excitation emission matrix spectroscopy (EEMS) provided information about the concentration and chemical nature of organic matter in the study area. CDOM optical properties combined with salinity clearly separated the sources of fixed nitrogen in the Bay.

Northern springs with elevated dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) concentration had lower salinities and showed a presence of protein peaks. CDOM concentration was negatively correlated with total nitrogen (TN) and DIN, which suggests that these are subjected to anthropogenic influences. Humic peaks dominated the composition of the southern springs. CDOM concentrations were much higher than in the northern springs and there was a positive correlation between CDOM and both TN and DIN. These findings suggest that the fixed nitrogen in the southern springs is naturally occurring organic matter and the low concentrations may partially be a result of subsurface mixing of saltwater and freshwater in the aquifer. Thus, hypothesis testing showed that there was a significant difference between northern and southern springs

Hypothesis testing also showed that there is a significant and unexpected positive relationship between CDOM and salinity studying Kings Bay, which is due to the low CDOM concentration in the springs discharging fresh water. This unique dataset also determined that the intercept of the mixing line was significantly different form zero. This indicates that CDOM is present and detectable at very low concentrations.

Parallel Factor Analysis (PARAFAC) was used to evaluate CDOM composition from excitation emission matrix spectra (EEMs) and five components were identified: two humic, two marine humic, and one protein-like. The marine-like components, peak M, were produced in the marine environment and in meteoric groundwater. The study found a unique groundwater marker for coastal regions. Northern Kings Bay sites were characterized by a protein-like component, which has been associated with wastewater. Additional optical and environmental parameters were used in discriminate analysis, which successfully identified the CDOM markers for both natural and anthropogenic sources of nutrients in the environment.

It is vital to improve the analysis of water, nutrients, and carbon from groundwater discharge into the coastal zone. Elevated DIN concentrations in groundwater are a widespread problem in Florida and over the past 30 years many spring waters have shown an increase in DIN concentrations. Nutrient discharge into delicate coastal areas can lead to ecological concerns. Investigating CDOM and nutrient distribution together can be a beneficial tool that can help differentiate sources from riverine/lacustrine, estuarine, marine, groundwater, and sewage impacted categories.