Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Biology (Integrative Biology)

Major Professor

David B. Lewis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan Bell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Earl McCoy, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christina Richards, Ph.D.


Biogeochemistry, Coastal Wetlands, Microbial Mat, Salt Pans


Microbial mats have played an important role in the carbon (C) and nutrient cycles since the Archean Eon and modern mats are important contributors to the biogeochemistry of intertidal wetlands. Microbial mats are flat assemblages of microbes that are currently found in many unvegetated habitats globally. Intertidal salt pans are a common habitat for microbial mats, however little is known about the distribution of microbial mats within the intertidal landscape. Understanding the spatial distribution of microbial mats is critical to developing quantitative estimates of the impacts of microbial mats on their ecosystems. We photographically measured the presence and density of microbial mats within 1 m2 quadrats across a landscape scale (~1000 Ha) on the Gulf Coast of Florida. The wide variety of metabolic processes that are found within microbial mats makes the net biogeochemical impacts of the microbial mats highly variable as well. To explore the biogeochemistry associated with microbial mats, we measured a suite of soil attributes under microbial mats and compared those measurements to nearby soils without microbial mats. We found that microbial mats are found on soils with biogeochemical attributes that are significantly different than soils without microbial mats. Soil organic matter, nitrate concentration, and soil temperature significantly increased in soils under microbial mats; pH was significantly lower in soils under microbial mats. Also notable was although the concentration of soil organic matter was higher, the bioavailability of that organic matter was significantly lower. Microbial mat presence is correlated with geomorphic variables such as proximal boundaries, as well as neighboring vegetation and other microbial mats.