Seasonal Variability in Organic Substances in Surface and Cave Waters at Marengo Cave, Indiana

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Soil and cave water, fluorescence, size fractionation, fulvic and humic acids

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Water samples from forest soils and a shallow cave underlying them were collected for the hydrological year 1996–1997. The soil waters did not display much seasonal variability in concentrations of organic substances in them but the cave waters yielded distinct highest levels in the spring and autumn seasons. The important controls on the amount of organic substances reaching the cave are the seasonal fluctuation in volume of the percolation waters and the soil's ability to provide organic material for these waters. Fluorescence studies of the organic compounds isolated from these waters revealed shorter peak excitation and emission wavelengths for the cave waters than for the soil waters, a result of both differences in concentration and probably also of significant change in the proportional organic assemblages in the waters. Precipitation appears to affect the fluorescence in both waters, with the dry autumn producing the highest yields. Molecular size fractionation revealed how the larger hydrophobic compounds are preferentially removed from the water before it reaches the cave, with the consequence that the smaller hydrophilic compounds become the dominant fluorophore there.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Hydrological Processes, v. 14, issue 7, p. 1177-1197