Title

Geoelectrical signals of geologic and hydrologic processes in a fringing reef lagoon setting

Document Type

Article

Publication details

Befus, KM, Cardenas, MB, Tait, DR & Erler, DV 2014, 'Geoelectrical signals of geologic and hydrologic processes in a fringing reef lagoon setting', Journal of Hydrology, vol. 517, pp. 508-520.

Published version available from:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.05.070

Peer Reviewed

Peer-Reviewed

Abstract

Coastal groundwater may discharge into nearshore and offshore waters forced by terrestrial fluxes, controlled by local geology, and modulated by the hydrodynamics of littoral water. We investigated the electrical signature of these features with a dense, multiscale network of electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) surveys in the Muri Lagoon of Rarotonga, Cook Islands. The ERT surveys spanned from onshore to 400 m into the lagoon and used standard electrodes on land and across the foreshore, submerged electrodes in the shallow subtidal zone, and floating electrodes towed throughout the reef lagoon by a boat. ERT surveys on land mapped a typical freshwater lens underlain by a saltwater wedge, but with possible deviations from the classical model due to an adjacent tidal creek. Further inland, ERT surveys imaged a layer of lava flow deposits that is potentially a confining hydrogeologic unit; this unit was used to constrain the expected electrical resistivity of these deposits below the lagoon. ERT surveys across the intertidal zone and into the lagoon indicated fresh groundwater and porewater salinity patterns consistent with previous small-scale studies including the seaward extension of fresh groundwater pathways to the lagoon. Electrical resistivity (ER) variations in the lagoon subsurface highlighted heterogeneities in the lagoon structure that may focus submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) through previously unknown buried lava flow deposits in the lagoon. A transition to higher ER values near the reef crest is consistent with the ER signature of porosity reduction due to ongoing differential cementation of reef deposits across the lagoon. The imaged coastal hydrostratigraphic heterogeneity may thus control terrestrial and marine porewater mixing, support SGD, and provide the pathways for groundwater and the materials it transports into the lagoon. This hydrogeophysical investigation highlighted the spatial heterogeneity of submarine coastal geology and its hydrogeologic control in a reef lagoon setting, but is likely to occur in many similar coastal settings. Ignoring geologic complexity can result in mischaracterization of SGD and other coastal groundwater processes at many spatial scales.