In this report, we present data on the geochemistry of sulfur in sediments and in surface water, groundwater, and rainwater in the Everglades region in south Florida. The results presented here are part of a larger study intended to determine the roles played by the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur in the ecology of the south Florida wetlands. The geochemistry of sulfur in the region is particularly important because of its link to the production of toxic methylmercury through processes mediated by sulfate reducing bacteria.
Sediment cores were collected from the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) 1A and 2A, from Lake Okeechobee, and from Taylor Slough in the southern Everglades. Water collection was more widespread and includes surface water from WCAs 1A, 2A, 3A, 2B, the EAA, Taylor Slough, Lake Okeechobee, and the Kissimmee River. Groundwater was collected from The Everglades Nutrient Removal Area (ENR) and from WCA 2A. Rainwater was collected at two month intervals over a period of one year from the ENR and from WCA 2A. Water was analyzed for sulfate concentration and sulfate sulfur stable isotopic ratio (34S/32S). Sediment cores were analyzed for total sulfur concentration and/or for concentrations of sulfur species (sulfate, organic sulfur, disulfides, and acid volatile sulfides (AVS)) and for their stable sulfur isotopic ratio.
Results show a decrease in total sulfur content (1.57 to 0.61 percent dry weight) with depth in two sediment cores collected in WCA 2A, indicating that there has been an increase in total sulfur content in recent times. A sediment core from the center of Lake Okeechobee shows a decrease in total sulfur content with depth (0.28 to 0.08 percent dry weight). A core from the periphery of the lake (South Bay) likewise shows a decrease in total sulfur content with depth (1.00 to 0.69 percent dry weight), however, the overall sulfur content is greater than that near the center at all depths. This suggests input of sulfur in recent times, especially near the lake margins. Sediments show a general decrease in sulfur concentration with depth, probably because of increases in sulfur input to the marshes in recent times. Regional differences in the concentrations and stable isotopic ratios of sulfate sulfur in surface water show that sulfur contamination to the northern Everglades likely originates from canals draining the EAA.