Rapid accretion of dissolved organic carbon in the springs of Florida: the most organic-poor natural waters
Abstract. The concentration of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in groundwater emanating as spring discharge at several locations in Florida, USA and the net increase in DOC in the downstream receiving waters were measured as part of a larger investigation of carbon dynamics in flowing waters. Springs with high discharge (>2.8 m3 s−1) were found to be the most organic-poor natural waters yet reported (13 ± 1.6 μmol C L−1), while springs with lesser discharge exhibited somewhat higher DOC concentrations (values ranging from 30 to 77 μmol C L−1). DOC concentrations increased rapidly downstream from the point of spring discharge, with the calculated net areal input rate of DOC ranging from 0.04 to 1.64 mol C m−2 d−1 across springs. Rates of DOC increase were generally greater in those springs with high discharge rates. These input rates compare favorably with values reported for gross primary production in these macrophyte-dominated spring systems, assuming that 17% of macrophyte primary production is lost, on average, as DOC. The measures reported here are possible only because of the remarkably low DOC levels in the up-surging groundwaters and the short residency times of the water in the spring-runs themselves.