Submarine groundwater discharge: a large, previously unrecognized source of dissolved iron to the South Atlantic Ocean

Windom, Herbert; Moore, Willard Sean; Niencheski, Luis Felipe Hax; Jahnke, Richard


This paper reports the initial results of a study of groundwater and coastal waters of southern Brazil adjacent to a 240 km barrier spit separating the Patos Lagoon, the largest coastal lagoon in South America, from the South Atlantic Ocean. The objective of this research is to assess the chemical alteration of freshwater and freshwater–seawater mixtures advecting through coastal permeable sands, and the influence of the submarine discharge of these fluids (SGD) on the chemistry of coastal waters. Here we focus on dissolved iron in this system and use radium isotopic tracers to quantify SGD and cross-shelf fluxes. Iron concentrations in groundwaters vary between 0.6 and 180 μM. The influence of the submarine discharge of these fluids into the surf zone produces dissolved Fe concentrations as high as several micromolar in coastal surface waters. The offshore gradient of dissolved Fe, coupled with results for Ra isotopes, is used to quantify the SGD flux of dissolved Fe from this coastline. We estimate the SGD flux to be 2×106 mol day−1 and the cross-shelf flux to be 3.2×105 mol day−1. This latter flux is equal to about 10% of the soluble atmospheric Fe flux to the entire South Atlantic Ocean. We speculate on the importance of this previously unrecognized iron input to regional ocean production and on the potential significance of this source to understanding variations in glacial–interglacial ocean production.

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  • IO - Artigos publicados em periódicos