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Submarine ground-water discharge and its role in coastal processes and ecosystems

October 1, 2004

Submarine ground-water discharge (SGD) has recently been recognized as a phenomenon that can strongly influence coastal water and geochemical budgets and drive ecosystem change. For example, the discharge of nutrient-enriched ground water into coastal waters may contribute significantly to eutrophication and blooms of harmful algae. Similarly, the quantity of SGD can also directly affect the availability of fresh water to coastal communities, impact fragile coastal ecosystems such as estuaries and coral reefs, and influence geomorphology of shoreline features.

Moore raised awareness of the global importance of SGD and much effort has been devoted to developing new tracer techniques and methods for the identification and quantification of SGD. Because the discharge of coastal ground water commonly occurs as diffuse seepage rather than focused discharge through identifiable springs, assessing SGD has remained difficult for both oceanographers and hydrologists. Through national and international research programs, Burnett, Moore, Charette, and others have developed a rigorous, systematic approach for quantifying SGD using a wide assortment of tracers and methods. Intercalibration experiments, such as those conducted in coastal waters off Australia, Brazil, and Long Island, NY, demonstrate that careful measurements can accurately quantify SGD, confirm some of the driving mechanisms (e.g. climatic and tidal forcing), and constrain the spatial and temporal scales at which these mechanisms operate. Now that approaches for rigorously quantifying SGD are becoming better established, scientists can now begin to investigate the wide variety of coastal processes affected by SGD.

Publication Year 2004
Title Submarine ground-water discharge and its role in coastal processes and ecosystems
DOI 10.3133/ofr20041226
Authors Peter W. Swarzenski, John F. Bratton, John Crusius
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2004-1226
Index ID ofr20041226
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse