The discharge of groundwater to coastal waters represents an important source of dissolved nutrients and contaminants that may affect chemical and biological processes in coastal ecosystems. In a journal article published in a recent issue of Limnology and Oceanography, URI Graduate School of Oceanography chemical oceanographers Roger P. Kelly and S. Bradley Moran describe how they used radium isotopes as tracers to determine seasonal changes in groundwater input to the Pettasquamscutt estuary from June 1999 to June 2000.
Radioactive isotopes of the naturally occurring element radium have recently been used as tracers of groundwater input to coastal zones. None of these studies, however, have evaluated seasonal changes in groundwater input. Measuring seasonal changes, as opposed to total input over the course of a year, provides scientists and managers with a more accurate understanding of coastal ecosystems as well as information about the periods of greatest impact over the annual cycle.
The Pettasquamscutt estuary, locally known as the Narrow River, is located adjacent to Narragansett Bay in southern Rhode Island and discharges into Rhode Island Sound. The estuary is approximately 6.5 miles long and has an average depth of 6 feet. Previous studies of the Pettasquamscutt estuary have determined that up to 50% of the freshwater input may be from groundwater.
Lisa Cugini | EurekAlert!
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