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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. Estuaries function as important transporters, transformers, and producers of organic matter (OM). Along the freshwater to saltwater gradient, the composition of OM is influenced by physical and biogeochemical processes that change spatially and temporally, making it difficult to constrain OM in these ecosystems. In addition, many of the environmental parameters (temperature, precipitation, riverine discharge) controlling OM are expected to change due to climate change. To better understand the environmental drivers of OM quantity (concentration) and quality (absorbance, fluorescence), we assessed both dissolved OM (DOM) and particulate OM (POM) spatially, along the freshwater to saltwater gradient and temporally, for a full year. We found seasonal differences in salinity throughout the estuary due to elevated riverine discharge during the late fall to early spring, with corresponding changes to OM quantity and quality. Using redundancy analysis, we found DOM covaried with salinity (adjusted r2 = 0.35, 0.41 for surface and bottom), indicating terrestrial sources of DOM in riverine discharge were the dominant DOM sources throughout the estuary, while POM covaried with environmental indictors of terrestrial sources (turbidity, adjusted r2 = 0.16, 0.23 for surface and bottom) as well as phytoplankton biomass (chlorophyll-a, adjusted r2 = 0.25, 0.14 for surface and bottom). Responses inmore »OM quantity and quality observed during the period of elevated discharge were similar to studies assessing OM quality following extreme storm events suggesting that regional changes in precipitation, as predicted by climate change, will be as important in changing the estuarine OM pool as episodic storm events in the future.« less
  3. Coastal ecosystems display consistent patterns of trade-offs between resistance and resilience to tropical cyclones.