Groundwater – Seawater Interactions

Groundwater – Seawater Interactions

Groundwater is the largest store of freshwater in temperate latitudes and provides a vital resource for many coastal communities. The discharge and exchange of groundwater to the ocean is important for nutrient inputs and ocean productivity, and many factors affect its cycling, including precipitation, aquifer characteristics, extraction and coastal hydrodynamics. More research is needed to better understand groundwater processes in estuarine and ocean settings. Example publications:

McCoy, C.A., D.R. Corbett, 2009. Review of submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) in coastal
zones of the Southeast and Gulf Coast regions of the United States with Management
Implications. Journal of Environmental Management, 90(1) 644-651.

McCoy, C.A., D.R. Corbett, J.E. Cable, and R.K. Spruill, 2007. Hydrogeological characterization
and quantification of submarine groundwater discharge in the southeast Coastal Plain of
North Carolina, Journal of Hydrology, 339, 159-171.

McCoy, C. A., D. R. Corbett, B. A. McKee, and Z. Top, 2007. An evaluation of submarine
groundwater discharge along the continental shelf of Louisiana using a multiple tracer
approach, J. Geophys. Res., 112, C03013, doi:10.1029/2006JC003505.

Featured Research

Examining chemical processes in Antarctica

Dr. Reide Corbett, co-program head for Coastal Processes, lead a scientific team of faculty and graduate students from ECU, UNC-CSI and Coastal Carolina University on a ten-week scientific expedition to Antarctica in the austral summer of 2013 and again in 2014. This project is funded through a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs.

This project is focused on quantifying the rate of submarine groundwater discharge to the coastal ocean near Palmer Station, and evaluating whether it contributes to the delivery of iron to the Southern Ocean. The Southern Ocean is iron- and light-limited, adding either will lead to enhance rates of primary production. Recent research has shown dust delivered by wind and icebergs is an important source of iron to the Southern Ocean, but iron added through groundwater discharge has never before been studied in these areas. The Southern Ocean plays an important role in many marine food chains due to the abundance of primary producers that flourish in the cold, nutrient-rich waters, and the migration of animals that feed on these plankton. As the Polar Regions continue to undergo environmental changes caused by rising temperatures and melting ice, a greater understanding of the sources of limiting nutrients is needed to evaluate the possible effects on food chains.

Zodiac work in Antarctica. A team returns from the field.

Zodiac work in Antarctica. A team returns from the field.