An assessment of karstic submarine groundwater and associated nutrient discharge to a Mediterranean coastal area (Balearic Islands, Spain) using radium isotopes

E. Garcia-Solsona, J. Garcia-Orellana, P. Masqué, E. Garcés, O. Radakovitch, A. Mayer, S. Estradé, G. Basterretxea

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Abstract

Short and long-lived radium isotopes (223Ra, 224Ra, 226Ra, 228Ra) were used to quantify submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) and its associated input of inorganic nitrogen (NO3-), phosphorus (PO43-) and silica (SiO44-) into the karstic Alcalfar Cove, a coastal region of Minorca Island (Western Mediterranean Sea). Cove water, seawater and groundwater (wells and karstic springs) samples were collected in May 2005 and February 2006 for radium isotopes and in November 2007 for dissolved inorganic nutrients. Salinity profiles in cove waters suggested that SGD is derived from shallow brackish springs that formed a buoyant surface fresh layer of only 0.3 m depth. A binary mixing model that considers the distribution of radium activities was used to determine the cove water composition. Results showed that cove waters contained 20% brackish groundwater; of which 6% was recirculated seawater and 14% corresponded to freshwater discharge. Using a radium-derived residence time of 2.4 days, a total SGD flux of 150,000 m3 year-1 was calculated, consisting of 45,000 m3 year-1 recirculated seawater and 105,000 m3 year-1 fresh groundwater. Fresh SGD fluxes of NO3-, SiO44- and PO43- were estimated to be on the order of 18,000, 1,140 and 4 μmol m-2 day-1, respectively, and presumably sustain the high phytoplankton biomass observed in the cove during summer. The total amount of NO3- and SiO44- supplied by SGD was higher than the measured inventories in the cove, while the reverse was true for PO43-. These discrepancies are likely due to non-conservative biogeochemical processes that occur within the subterranean estuary and Alcalfar Cove waters. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-229
JournalBiogeochemistry
Volume97
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

Keywords

  • Groundwater discharge
  • Inorganic nutrients
  • Karstic springs phytoplankton proliferations
  • Radium isotopes

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