The spatial, temporal and biogeochemical dynamics of submarine groundwater discharge in a semi-enclosed embayment

Alicia Loveless

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    347 Downloads (Pure)


    [Truncated abstract] It has become widely apparent throughout the world that the discharge of nitrogen contaminated groundwater is reducing surface water quality of marine coastal waters, and is subsequently contributing to the decline of benthic habitats such as seagrasses. A process-based understanding of submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) has lagged behind these impacts, and this lack of understanding is addressed by this thesis. This thesis, of the spatial and temporal complexity of SGD, has uncovered and answered questions regarding the sources, fate and transport of SGD in a complex coastal discharge environment. Radium isotope techniques, groundwater biogeochemical investigations and HAMSOM surface water modelling have identified the magnitude, transport and fate of SGD in Cockburn Sound, a semienclosed embayment in Western Australia. A temporal periodicity that encompassed end-of-winter, early-summer, late-summer and mid-winter regimes of hydrology and oceanography, was employed in field studies that spanned the years 2003, 2004 and 2005. ... The fate of the groundwater in the semi-enclosed embayment was investigated using knowledge of surface water currents. Localised regions of high groundwater influence were identified in the surface waters of the embayment, and through the application of a 3-dimensional hydrodynamic model (HAMSOM) it was discovered that, despite similar total volume residence times, variation in the surface flow regime resulted in very different fates for groundwater discharged to the embayment. For three of the four investigated seasonal regimes, groundwater discharged at the shoreline was shown to be rapidly exported out of the embayment (within approximately 1-3 days). During mid-winter very different wind and current regimes existed, resulting in the lateral transport of shoreline groundwater across the embayment, presenting potential for nutrient recirculation within the system for longer time periods (10+ days). Lateral transport of groundwater during mid-winter from the limestone region of the coastline, may contribute to peaks in phytoplankton biomass that have been reported to occur at this time. The investigations into spatial, temporal and biogeochemical dynamics of SGD provided for further dissertation of the processes that affect these dynamics, at a scale that was relevant to marine embayments, coastal aquifers and the coastal ecosystem. It is hoped that this thesis will contribute to a better understanding of the inputs, dynamics and impacts of SGD on coastal ecosystems and lead to improved management strategies for coastal zones.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2006


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