Isotopic, geophysical and biogeochemical investigation of submarine groundwater discharge: IAEA-UNESCO intercomparison exercise at Mauritius Island

Povinec, P.P., Burnett, W.C., Beck, A., Bokuniewicz, H., Charette, M., Gonneea, M.E., Groening, M., Ishitobi, T., Kontar, E., Kwong, L. Liong Wee, Marie, D.E.P., Moore, W.S., Oberdorfer, J.A., Peterson, R., Ramessur, R., Rapaglia, J., Stieglitz, T., and Top, Z. (2012) Isotopic, geophysical and biogeochemical investigation of submarine groundwater discharge: IAEA-UNESCO intercomparison exercise at Mauritius Island. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 104. pp. 24-45.

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Abstract

Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) into a shallow lagoon on the west coast of Mauritius Island (Flic-en-Flac) was investigated using radioactive (³H, ²²²Rn, ²²³Ra, ²²⁴Ra, ²²⁶Ra, ²²⁸Ra) and stable (²H, ¹⁸O) isotopes and nutrients. SGD intercomparison exercises were carried out to validate the various approaches used to measure SGD including radium and radon measurements, seepage rate measurements using manual and automated meters, sediment bulk conductivity and salinity surveys. SGD measurements using benthic chambers placed on the floor of the Flic-en-Flac Lagoon showed discharge rates up to 500 cm/day. Large variability in SGD was observed over distances of a few meters, which were attributed to different geomorphological features. Deployments of automated seepage meters captured the spatial and temporal variability of SGD with a mean seepage rate of 10 cm/day. The stable isotopic composition of submarine waters was characterized by significant variability and heavy isotope enrichment and was used to predict the contribution of fresh terrestrially derived groundwater to SGD (range from a few % to almost 100%). The integrated SGD flux, estimated from seepage meters placed parallel to the shoreline, was 35 m³/m day, which was in reasonable agreement with results obtained from a hydrologic water balance calculation (26 m³/m day). SGD calculated from the radon inventory method using in situ radon measurements were between 5 and 56 m³/m per day. Low concentrations of radium isotopes observed in the lagoon water reflected the low abundance of U and Th in the basalt that makes up the island. High SGD rates contribute to high nutrients loading to the lagoon, potentially leading to eutrophication. Each of the applied methods yielded unique information about the character and magnitude of SGD. The results of the intercomparison studies have resulted a better understanding of groundwater seawater interactions in coastal regions. Such information is an important pre-requisite for the protection and management of coastal freshwater resources.

Item ID: 22609
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1879-1700
Keywords: groundwater, seawater, seepage meters, stable isotopes, tritium, radium isotopes, radon, nutrients
Funders: US National Science Foundation
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2012 09:40
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0402 Geochemistry > 040203 Isotope Geochemistry @ 40%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040305 Marine Geoscience @ 30%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience > 040603 Hydrogeology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9611 Physical and Chemical Conditions of Water > 961102 Physical and Chemical Conditions of Water in Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 60%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960506 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Fresh, Ground and Surface Water Environments @ 40%
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