Aquifer systems extending far offshore on the U.S. Atlantic margin.
ABSTRACT: Low-salinity submarine groundwater contained within continental shelves is a global phenomenon. Mechanisms for emplacing offshore groundwater include glacial processes that drove water into exposed continental shelves during sea-level low stands and active connections to onshore hydrologic systems. While low-salinity groundwater is thought to be abundant, its distribution and volume worldwide is poorly understood due to the limited number of observations. Here we image laterally continuous aquifers extending 90 km offshore New Jersey and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, on the U.S. Atlantic margin using new shallow water electromagnetic geophysical methods. Our data provide more continuous constraints on offshore groundwater than previous models and present evidence for a connection between the modern onshore hydrologic system and offshore aquifers. We identify clinoforms as a previously unknown structural control on the lateral extent of low-salinity groundwater and potentially a control on where low-salinity water rises into the seafloor. Our data suggest a continuous submarine aquifer system spans at least 350 km of the U.S. Atlantic coast and contains about 2800 km3 of low-salinity groundwater. Our findings can be used to improve models of past glacial, eustatic, tectonic, and geomorphic processes on continental shelves and provide insight into shelf geochemistry, biogeochemical cycles, and the deep biosphere.
Project description:Although offshore freshened groundwater (OFG) systems have been documented in numerous continental margins worldwide, their geometry, controls and emplacement dynamics remain poorly constrained. Here we integrate controlled-source electromagnetic, seismic reflection and borehole data with hydrological modelling to quantitatively characterise a previously unknown OFG system near Canterbury, New Zealand. The OFG system consists of one main, and two smaller, low salinity groundwater bodies. The main body extends up to 60?km from the coast and a seawater depth of 110?m. We attribute along-shelf variability in salinity to permeability heterogeneity due to permeable conduits and normal faults, and to recharge from rivers during sea level lowstands. A meteoric origin of the OFG and active groundwater migration from onshore are inferred. However, modelling results suggest that the majority of the OFG was emplaced via topographically-driven flow during sea level lowstands in the last 300 ka. Global volumetric estimates of OFG will be significantly revised if active margins, with steep coastal topographies like the Canterbury margin, are considered.
Project description:Continental shelves and shelf seas play a central role in the global carbon cycle. However, their importance with respect to trace element and isotope (TEI) inputs to ocean basins is less well understood. Here, we present major findings on shelf TEI biogeochemistry from the GEOTRACES programme as well as a proof of concept for a new method to estimate shelf TEI fluxes. The case studies focus on advances in our understanding of TEI cycling in the Arctic, transformations within a major river estuary (Amazon), shelf sediment micronutrient fluxes and basin-scale estimates of submarine groundwater discharge. The proposed shelf flux tracer is 228-radium (T1/2 = 5.75 yr), which is continuously supplied to the shelf from coastal aquifers, sediment porewater exchange and rivers. Model-derived shelf 228Ra fluxes are combined with TEI/ 228Ra ratios to quantify ocean TEI fluxes from the western North Atlantic margin. The results from this new approach agree well with previous estimates for shelf Co, Fe, Mn and Zn inputs and exceed published estimates of atmospheric deposition by factors of approximately 3-23. Lastly, recommendations are made for additional GEOTRACES process studies and coastal margin-focused section cruises that will help refine the model and provide better insight on the mechanisms driving shelf-derived TEI fluxes to the ocean.This article is part of the themed issue 'Biological and climatic impacts of ocean trace element chemistry'.
Project description:This study deals with the effects of hydrodynamic functioning of hard-rock aquifers on microbial communities. In hard-rock aquifers, the heterogeneous hydrologic circulation strongly constrains groundwater residence time, hydrochemistry, and nutrient supply. Here, residence time and a wide range of environmental factors were used to test the influence of groundwater circulation on active microbial community composition, assessed by high throughput sequencing of 16S rRNA. Groundwater of different ages was sampled along hydrogeologic paths or loops, in three contrasting hard-rock aquifers in Brittany (France). Microbial community composition was driven by groundwater residence time and hydrogeologic loop position. In recent groundwater, in the upper section of the aquifers or in their recharge zone, surface water inputs caused high nitrate concentration and the predominance of putative denitrifiers. Although denitrification does not seem to fully decrease nitrate concentrations due to low dissolved organic carbon concentrations, nitrate input has a major effect on microbial communities. The occurrence of taxa possibly associated with the application of organic fertilizers was also noticed. In ancient isolated groundwater, an ecosystem based on Fe(II)/Fe(III) and S/SO4 redox cycling was observed down to several 100 of meters below the surface. In this depth section, microbial communities were dominated by iron oxidizing bacteria belonging to Gallionellaceae. The latter were associated to old groundwater with high Fe concentrations mixed to a small but not null percentage of recent groundwater inducing oxygen concentrations below 2.5 mg/L. These two types of microbial community were observed in the three sites, independently of site geology and aquifer geometry, indicating hydrogeologic circulation exercises a major control on microbial communities.
Project description:Satellite-derived sea surface salinity (SSS) data from Aquarius and SMOS are used to study the shelf-open ocean exchanges in the western South Atlantic near 35°S. Away from the tropics, these exchanges cause the largest SSS variability throughout the South Atlantic. The data reveal a well-defined seasonal pattern of SSS during the analyzed period and of the location of the export of low-salinity shelf waters. In spring and summer, low-salinity waters over the shelf expand offshore and are transferred to the open ocean primarily southeast of the river mouth (from 36°S to 37°30'S). In contrast, in fall and winter, low-salinity waters extend along a coastal plume and the export path to the open ocean distributes along the offshore edge of the plume. The strong seasonal SSS pattern is modulated by the seasonality of the along-shelf component of the wind stress over the shelf. However, the combined analysis of SSS, satellite-derived sea surface elevation and surface velocity data suggest that the precise location of the export of shelf waters depends on offshore circulation patterns, such as the location of the Brazil Malvinas Confluence and mesoscale eddies and meanders of the Brazil Current. The satellite data indicate that in summer, mixtures of low-salinity shelf waters are swiftly driven toward the ocean interior along the axis of the Brazil/Malvinas Confluence. In winter, episodic wind reversals force the low-salinity coastal plume offshore where they mix with tropical waters within the Brazil Current and create a warmer variety of low-salinity waters in the open ocean.Satellite salinity sensors capture low-salinity detrainment events from shelves SW Atlantic low-salinity detrainments cause highest basin-scale variability In summer low-salinity detrainments cause extended low-salinity anomalies.
Project description:When modelling onshore sedimentary basins, modellers generally assume that semi-permeable layers (aquitards) greatly restrict vertical flow between aquifers. Aquitards are therefore considered as confining media and vertical flow is assumed to take place mainly within localised permeable faults, if any. In the offshore context, however, interpretation of seismic data frequently provides evidence of fluid flow between sedimentary layers via structurally disrupted formations (pervasive fractures) recognised as zones of reduced seismic amplitude and generically called "chimneys". Here we show that chimneys are also present onshore, and that they crosscut confining layers. In the Anglo-Paris Basin, seismic data suggest 1 to 2 km wide zones of disrupted seismic signal spatially correlated to a hitherto unexplained major temperature anomaly of 20 °C. When included in geothermal models using a five-order increase in permeabilities with respect to confining layers, we find that fluid flows vertically through aquifers and confining layers, thereby explaining this major temperature anomaly. Despite the importance of their hydrodynamic and thermal impacts, chimneys - less obvious than faults - have been overlooked as fluid flow paths in many onshore sedimentary basins exploited for their resources. This indicates a clear need for better understanding of pervasive flow paths, especially as the resources and properties of basins (i.e. conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons, geothermal potential, CO2 storage, nuclear waste repository, drinking water, etc.) are increasingly being harnessed.
Project description:Understanding how regional ecosystems respond to sea-level and environmental perturbations is a main challenge in palaeoecology. Here we use quantitative abundance estimates, integrated within a sequence stratigraphic and environmental framework, to reconstruct benthic community changes through the 13 myr history of the Jurassic Sundance Seaway in the western United States. Sundance Seaway communities are notable for their low richness and high dominance relative to most areas globally in the Jurassic, and this probably reflects steep temperature and salinity gradients along the 2000 km length of the Seaway that hindered colonization of species from the open ocean. Ordination of samples shows a main turnover event at the Middle-Upper Jurassic transition, which coincided with a shift from carbonate to siliciclastic depositional systems in the Seaway, probably initiated by northward drift from subtropical latitudes to more humid temperate latitudes, and possibly global cooling. Turnover was not uniform across the onshore-offshore gradient, but was higher in offshore environments. The higher resilience of onshore communities to third-order sea-level fluctuations and to the change from a carbonate to a siliciclastic system was driven by a few abundant eurytopic species that persisted from the opening to the closing of the Seaway. Lower stability in offshore facies was instead controlled by the presence of more volatile stenotopic species. Such increased onshore stability in community composition contrasts with the well-documented onshore increase in taxonomic turnover rates, and this study underscores how ecological analyses of relative abundance may contrast with taxonomically based analyses. We also demonstrate the importance of a stratigraphic palaeobiological approach to reconstructing the links between environmental and faunal gradients, and how their evolution through time produces local stratigraphic changes in community composition.
Project description:Geomorphic strain markers accumulating the effects of many earthquake cycles help to constrain the mechanical behaviour of continental rift systems as well as the related seismic hazards. In the Corinth Rift (Greece), the unique record of onshore and offshore markers of Pleistocene ~100-ka climate cycles provides an outstanding possibility to constrain rift mechanics over a range of timescales. Here we use high-resolution topography to analyse the 3D geometry of a sequence of Pleistocene emerged marine terraces associated with flexural rift-flank uplift. We integrate this onshore dataset with offshore seismic data to provide a synoptic view of the flexural deformation across the rift. This allows us to derive an average slip rate of 4.5-9.0 mm·yr-1 on the master fault over the past ~610 ka and an uplift/subsidence ratio of 1:1.1-2.4. We reproduce the observed flexure patterns, using 3 and 5-layered lithospheric scale finite element models. Modelling results imply that the observed elastic flexure is produced by coseismic slip along 40-60° planar normal faults in the elastic upper crust, followed by postseismic viscous relaxation occurring within the basal lower crust or upper mantle. We suggest that such a mechanism may typify rapid localised extension of continental lithosphere.
Project description:The ocean is thought to be the terminal sink for poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that have been produced and released in large quantities for more than 60 years. Regulatory actions have curbed production of legacy compounds such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), but impacts of regulations on PFAS releases to the marine environment are poorly understood. Here, we report new data for 21 targeted PFAS in seawater and plankton from the coast, shelf, and slope of the Northwestern Atlantic Ocean. We find strong inverse correlations between salinity and concentrations of most PFAS, indicating that ongoing continental discharges are the major source to the marine environment. For legacy PFAS such as PFOS and PFOA, a comparison of inland and offshore measurements from the same year (2014) suggests that there are ongoing releases to the marine environment from sources such as submarine groundwater discharges. Vertical transport of most PFAS associated with settling particles from the surface (10 m) to deeper waters is small compared to advective transport except for perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA; 35% of vertical flux) and precursor compounds to PFOS (up to 86%). We find higher than expected bioaccumulation factors (BAFs = Cplankton/Cwater) for perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs) with five and six carbons (log BAF = 2.9-3.4) and linear PFOS (log BAF = 2.6-4.3) in marine plankton compared to PFCAs with 7-11 carbons. We postulate that this reflects additional contributions from precursor compounds. Known precursor compounds detected here have among the highest BAFs (log BAF > 3.0) for all PFAS in this study, suggesting that additional research on the bioaccumulation potential of unknown organofluorine compounds is urgently needed.
Project description:Seawater intrusion into coastal aquifers can increase groundwater salinity beyond potable levels, endangering access to freshwater for millions of people. Seawater intrusion is particularly likely where water tables lie below sea level, but can also arise from groundwater pumping in some coastal aquifers with water tables above sea level. Nevertheless, no nation-wide, observation-based assessment of the scope of potential seawater intrusion exists. Here we compile and analyze ~250,000 coastal groundwater-level observations made since the year 2000 in the contiguous United States. We show that the majority of observed groundwater levels lie below sea level along more than 15% of the contiguous coastline. We conclude that landward hydraulic gradients characterize a substantial fraction of the East Coast (>18%) and Gulf Coast (>17%), and also parts of the West Coast where groundwater pumping is high. Sea level rise, coastal land subsidence, and increasing water demands will exacerbate the threat of seawater intrusion.
Project description:Invertebrate lineages tend to originate and become extinct at a higher rate in onshore than in offshore habitats over long temporal durations (more than 10 Myr), but it remains unclear whether this pattern scales down to durations of stages (less than 5 Myr) or even sequences (less than 0.5 Myr). We assess whether onshore-offshore gradients in long-term turnover between the tropical Eocene and the warm-temperate Plio-Pleistocene can be extrapolated from gradients in short-term turnover, using abundances of molluscan species from bulk samples in the northeast Atlantic Province. We find that temporal turnover of metacommunities does not significantly decline with depth over short durations (less than 5 Myr), but significantly declines with depth between the Eocene and Plio-Pleistocene (approx. 50 Myr). This decline is determined by a higher onshore extinction of Eocene genera and families, by a higher onshore variability in abundances of genera and families, and by an onshore expansion of genera and families that were frequent offshore in the Eocene. Onshore-offshore decline in turnover thus emerges only over long temporal durations. We suggest that this emergence is triggered by abrupt and spatially extensive climatic or oceanographic perturbations that occurred between the Eocene and Plio-Pleistocene. Plio-Pleistocene metacommunities show a high proportion of bathymetric generalists, in contrast to Eocene metacommunities. Accordingly, the net cooling and weaker thermal gradients may have allowed offshore specialists to expand into onshore habitats and maintain their presence in offshore habitats.