Submarine groundwater discharge: Natural radioactivity accumulation in a wetland ecosystem

Jordi Garcia-Orellana, Valentí Rodellas, Núria Casacuberta, Ester Lopez-Castillo, Marta Vilarrasa, Victòria Moreno, Ester Garcia-Solsona, Pere Masqué

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) has attracted the interest from the scientific community over the past decade for its impact on biogeochemical cycles of coastal ecosystems and/or management of water resources. SGD is associated with a flow of natural radionuclides (Ra isotopes and 222Rn), which are often used as SGD tracers that can significantly increase the natural background radiation. Although in many circumstances the discharge is produced directly to the sea and therefore the increase of natural radioactivity levels can generally be considered negligible due to a dilution processes, the discharge into coastal wetlands (marshes, coastal lagoons or ponds), with somewhat restricted exchange with the open sea, may require a detailed study of the distribution of natural radionuclides and their effects on the coastal ecosystem. The Peníscola marsh is a Mediterranean coastal wetland where such studies may be of special interest because it is fed exclusively by groundwater, mainly discharging from a deep aquifer with high natural radioactivity content. In the Peníscola marsh, brackish groundwater discharging through the wetland sediments is enriched in radionuclides to maximum values of 2.8 and 616kBqm-3 of 226Ra and 222Rn, respectively. These high dissolved concentrations result in high levels of 222Rn in air (up to 36Bqm-3) and 210Pb and 210Po dissolved in water (20 and 5.7Bqm-3, respectively). These elevated levels of natural radionuclides in the Peníscola marsh are also responsible of the significant increase in 210Po and 210Pb contents in both fish and plants. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-72
JournalMarine Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013


  • 210 Pb
  • 210 Po
  • 226 Ra
  • Fish
  • Natural radioactivity
  • Plants
  • Ra
  • Radionuclides
  • Rn
  • SGD

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