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Title: Temporal and Spatial Variations in Subterranean Estuary Geochemical Gradients and Nutrient Cycling Rates: Impacts on Groundwater Nutrient Export to Estuaries
Abstract

Subterranean estuaries (STEs) form at the land‐sea boundary where groundwater and seawater mix. These biogeochemically reactive zones influence groundwater‐borne nutrient concentrations and speciation prior to export via submarine groundwater discharge (SGD). We examined a STE located along the York River Estuary (YRE) to determine if SGD delivers dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) and phosphorus (DIP) to the overlying water. We assessed variations in STE geochemical profiles with depth across locations, times, and tidal stages, estimated N removal along the STE flow path, measured hydraulic gradients to estimate SGD, and calculated potential nutrient fluxes. Salinity, dissolved oxygen (DO), DIN, and DIP varied significantly with depth and season (p < 0.05), but not location or tidal stage. Ammonium dominated the DIN pool deep in the STE. Moving toward the sediment surface, ammonium concentrations decreased as nitrate and DO concentrations increased, suggesting nitrification. Potential sediment N removal rates mediated by denitrification were <8 mmoles N m−2 d−1. The total groundwater discharge rate was 38 ± 11 L m−2 d−1; discharge followed tidal and seasonal patterns. Net SGD nutrient fluxes were 0.065–3.2 and 0.019–0.093 mmoles m−2 d−1for DIN and DIP, respectively. However, microbial N removal in the STE may attenuate 0.58% to >100% of groundwater DIN. SGD fluxes were on the same order of magnitude as diffusive benthic fluxes but accounted for <10% of the nutrients delivered by fluvial advection in the YRE. Our results indicate the importance of STE biogeochemical transformations to SGD flux estimations and their role in coastal eutrophication and nutrient dynamics.

 
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Award ID(s):
1737258 1658135
NSF-PAR ID:
10418045
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Volume:
128
Issue:
6
ISSN:
2169-8953
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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