Submarine groundwater discharge: A significant source of dissolved trace metals to the North Western Mediterranean Sea
Place of Publication
School of Science
Bioactive trace metals play a significant role as micronutrients in the ocean and therefore it is important to evaluate their sources. Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) has been recognized as an input of trace metals to the coastal sea. Here, we investigated the significance of SGD as a source of dissolved trace metals (dTM) to the coastal sea in a regional area such as the North Western (NW) Mediterranean Sea. We analysed dTM concentrations in SGD end-members and incorporate data on SGD dTM concentrations and water flows reported in previous studies carried out in this area, to estimate the following ranges of SGD-driven dTM fluxes (in 106 mol y− 1): Cd: 0.0007–0.03, Co: 0.004–0.11, Cu: 0.09–1.9, Fe: 1.8–29, Ni: 0.09–1.9, Pb: 0.002–0.06, Zn: 0.38–12. These fluxes were compared to dTM fluxes from riverine discharge and atmospheric deposition, demonstrating that SGD is a major source of dTM to the NW Mediterranean Sea. Whilst riverine inputs are limited to the surrounding of river mouths and atmospheric fluxes are distributed throughout the whole basin mainly during sporadic depositional events, SGD represents a permanent, albeit seasonally variable, source of metals to most of the coastal areas. SGD-driven dTM inputs may be even more significant, in relative terms, in other coastal regions of the Mediterranean Sea where rivers are scarce, as it is the case of the African coast and many islands. This study highlights the relevance of SGD as a source of dTM to the Mediterranean Sea and the need of its consideration in the calculation of metal budgets in the basin and in the investigation of biogeochemical cycles in coastal areas.