Haßler, K., Dähnke, K., Kölling, M., Sichoix, L., Nickl, A.-L., & Moosdorf, N. (2019): Provenance of nutrients in submarine fresh groundwater discharge on Tahiti and Moorea, French Polynesia. Applied Geochemistry, Volume 100, 2019, Pages 181-189, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2018.11.020
Submarine fresh groundwater discharge (SFGD) provides a pathway for dissolved nutrients and other solutes from land to the ocean. It connects pollution from anthropogenic land use with coastal marine waters. In case of the oligotrophic central South Pacific Ocean around Tahiti and Moorea, French Polynesia, nutrient concentrations are particularly low. Both islands are surrounded by tropical coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to nutrient concentrations in the ambient water so that a surplus of nutrients, e.g. from SFGD, could lead to the degradation of coral reef ecosystems. We examined nutrient contributions from different land cover classes to nutrient fluxes through SFGD by combining nutrient concentration data, spatial data, oxygen and hydrogen isotope ratios of water (δ18OH2O and δ2HH2O, respectively) and nitrogen and oxygen isotope ratios of nitrate (δ15NNO3- and δ18ONO3-). Undeveloped land provides measurable quantities of phosphate while nitrate concentrations are often below the detection limit. The bulk of the nutrient load in nutrient enriched groundwater is of anthropogenic origin. It enters the aquifer system at low altitudes, where catchments are characterized by anthropogenic land use. Elevated nitrate concentrations are mainly associated with septic waste/manure inputs in fresh water.This study elucidates sources of nutrients in the groundwater of two volcanic islands, highlighting the impact that even a small populated area along the coast of an island can have, as well as the differences in nutrient transport between these seemingly similar locations.