Exchange across the sediment-water interface quantified from porewater radon profiles

Peter G. Cook*, Valentí Rodellas, Aladin Andrisoa, Thomas C. Stieglitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Water recirculation through permeable sediments induced by wave action, tidal pumping and currents enhances the exchange of solutes and fine particles between sediments and overlying waters, and can be an important hydro-biogeochemical process. In shallow water, most of the recirculation is likely to be driven by the interaction of wave-driven oscillatory flows with bottom topography which can induce pressure fluctuations at the sediment-water interface on very short timescales. Tracer-based methods provide the most reliable means for characterizing this short-timescale exchange. However, the commonly applied approaches only provide a direct measure of the tracer flux. Estimating water fluxes requires characterizing the tracer concentration in discharging porewater; this implies collecting porewater samples at shallow depths (usually a few mm, depending on the hydrodynamic dispersivity), which is very difficult with commonly used techniques. In this study, we simulate observed vertical profiles of radon concentration beneath shallow coastal lagoons using a simple water recirculation model that allows us to estimate water exchange fluxes as a function of depth below the sediment-water interface. Estimated water fluxes at the sediment water interface at our site were 0.18–0.25 m/day, with fluxes decreasing exponentially with depth. Uncertainty in dispersivity is the greatest source of error in exchange flux, and results in an uncertainty of approximately a factor-of-five.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)873-883
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • Benthic flux
  • Lake
  • Porewater exchange
  • Radon
  • Recirculated seawater
  • Tracers


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