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Nutrient inputs to the coastal ocean through submarine groundwater discharge: controls and potential impact



Nutrient inputs to the coastal ocean through submarine groundwater discharge: controls and potential impact



Journal of Hydrology Amsterdam 295(1/4): 64-86



Nutrient input through submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) rivals river inputs in certain regions and may play a significant role in nutrient cycling and primary productivity in the coastal ocean. In this paper, we review the key factors determining the fluxes of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) associated with SGD and present a compilation of measured rates. We show that, in particular, the water residence time and the redox conditions in coastal aquifers and sediments determine fluxes and ratios of N and P in SGD. In many coastal groundwater systems, and especially in contaminated aquifers, N/P ratios exceed those in river water and are higher than the Redfield ratio. Thus, anthropogenically driven increases in SGD of nutrients have the potential to drive the N-limited coastal primary production to P-limitation. River input of N and P to the coastal ocean has doubled over the past 50 yr. Results of a dynamic biogeochemical model for the C, N and P cycles of the global proximal coastal ocean (which includes large bays, the open water part of estuaries, deltas, inland seas and salt marshes), suggest that this has led to a factor 2 increase in primary production and biomass and a decline in water column N/P ratios, i.e. the system has become more N-limiting. With the same model, we show that an increase of SGD-N fluxes to approximately 0.7-1.1 Tmol yr(-1) (with a SGD N/P ratio of 100; equal to approximately 45-70% of pre-human riverine N-inputs) is required to drive the coastal ocean to P-limitation within the next 50 yr.

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Accession: 004251990

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DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2004.02.018


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