Understanding the effects of groundwater discharge on coastal lagoon ecosystems

Understanding the effects of groundwater discharge on coastal lagoon ecosystems

Coastal lagoons host some of the most dynamic, diverse and productive ecosystems on Earth, which are subject to significant pressure from human activities. Hydrological land-ocean connectivity is a universally accepted important driver of coastal ecosystems, but the ecological effects of groundwater and associated solute fluxes to coastal systems remain poorly understood for most of the world’s shores.

The overall goal of this project is to evaluate the role that groundwater flows to coastal Mediterranean lagoons play in the functioning and vulnerability of these ecologically and economically important ecosystems. This project encompasses a suite of interdisciplinary investigations aimed at (a) the quantification of groundwater and associated nutrient fluxes and (b) the evaluation of groundwater-derived effects on lagoon primary production. Two French lagoons with contrasting hydroecological conditions will be investigated combining current methods to quantify groundwater discharge and associated nutrient inputs (use of tracers such as radioisotopes and salinity) with the evaluation of new tools (application of the stable isotope signature in primary producers). The novel understanding of groundwater-ecological interactions derived from this project will allow closing a current gap in the fundamental understanding of coastal processes, improving our capacity to sustainably manage hydrological and ecological resources in the coastal zone.