Submarine groundwater discharge to the coastal environment of a Mediterranean island (Majorca, Spain): Ecosystem and biogeochemical significance

Gotzon Basterretxea*, Antonio Tovar-Sanchez, Aaron J. Beck, Pere Masqué, Henry J. Bokuniewicz, Ruth Coffey, Carlos M. Duarte, Jordi Garcia-Orellana, Esther Garcia-Solsona, Lorena Martinez-Ribes, Raquel Vaquer-Sunyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


This article reports the results of a study of submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) to coastal waters of Majorca (NW Mediterranean). The overall aim is to evaluate the relevance of SGD of the island and chemically characterize the components that are supplied to the coastal waters through this pathway. Although other discharge areas are identified, we particularly focus on SGD in bays and areas of increased sea water residence time where effects of the discharges are expected to be most notable. Analysis at four selected embayments with different land-use characteristics indicated a link between human activities (mainly agriculture and urban) and compounds arriving to the coast. A pathway for these elements is the diffuse discharge along the shoreline, as suggested by the inverse relationship between salinity and nutrients in nearshore porewaters. A general survey was conducted at 46 sites around the island, and used dissolved radium as a qualitative indicator of SGD. Measurements of nutrients (P and N), pCO2 and TOC were performed to characterize the elements delivered to the coastal environment. Most nearshore samples showed 224Ra enrichment (mean ± SE, 7.0 ± 0.6 dpm 100 l-1) with respect to offshore waters (1. 1 ± 0.2 dpm 100 l-1); however, 224Ra measurements along the coast were highly variable (1.0-38.1 dpm 100 l-1). Coastal samples with enhanced radium levels showed elevated pCO2 with respect to atmospheric concentrations, which together with high pCO2 in groundwater (>5,000 ppm) indicates that SGD is an important vector of CO2 to coastal waters. Moreover, a relationship between 224Ra and phytoplankton biomass was established, suggesting an important impact of SGD on coastal productivity. The results presented here provide a first approximation of the SGD effect in the coastal waters of Majorca, and indicate that SGD could be an important source of nutrients and CO2 to the coast, strongly influencing the productivity and biogeochemical cycling of the coastal waters of Majorca.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)629-643
Number of pages15
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Islands
  • Majorca
  • Mediterranean
  • Nutrients
  • Submarine groundwater discharge
  • pCO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Submarine groundwater discharge to the coastal environment of a Mediterranean island (Majorca, Spain): Ecosystem and biogeochemical significance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this