DOI: 10.1029/2022wr032828 ISSN:

Seawater–Groundwater Interaction Governs Trace Metal Zonation in a Coastal Sandy Aquifer

Zhenyan Wang, Qianqian Wang, Yifan Guo, Shengchao Yu, Kai Xiao, Yan Zhang, Hailong Li, Chunmiao Zheng, Xiaolong Geng, Xiaolang Zhang, Huijie Li, Xuejing Wang
  • Water Science and Technology


Trace metals in the groundwater of coastal sandy aquifers significantly influence the coastal ecosystem, yet the spatiotemporal controls of these metals remain unclear. In this paper, we comprehensively revealed the distribution patterns, key controlling factors, potential ecological risks, and fluxes to the ocean of groundwater trace metals (As, Ba, Cr, Cd, Fe, Mn, Pb, and Zn) in a coastal deep sandy aquifer. The results showed a clear zonation of trace metals in the groundwater in relation to the mixing extent between seawater and terrestrial freshwater. The freshwater zone exhibited a relatively low concentration of trace metals, whereas the freshwater‐seawater transition zone showed a substantial quantity of dissolved Fe, Mn, As, and Ba. Seawater‐groundwater interactions significantly affected the Fe, Mn, As, and Ba concentrations through redox potential and pH gradients. The tide‐driven saline water zone was vulnerable to oceanic environments and anthropogenic activities, resulting in the enrichment of trace metals such as Zn and Cd. Driven by recirculated submarine groundwater discharge (SGD), the concentrations of trace metals in the density‐driven saline circulation zone were found to be higher than those in the surrounding areas. The ecological risk index suggested that the freshwater‐seawater transition zone posted the highest ecological risks. Trace metal fluxes (i.e., Fe, Mn, and As) via SGD significantly contributed to the total input into the sea, which may have potential impacts on the coastal environments. Our study highlighted the importance of seawater‐groundwater interactions on trace element cycling in coastal sandy aquifers.

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