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A model analysis of the tidal engine that drives nitrogen cycling in coastal riparian aquifers

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Created: Mar 26, 2019 at 2:46 p.m.
Last updated: May 24, 2019 at 4:23 p.m.
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In coastal rivers, tides facilitate surface water-groundwater exchange and strongly coupled nitrification-denitrification near the fluctuating water table. We used numerical fluid flow and reactive transport models to explore longitudinal variations in reactive nitrogen transport along a tidal freshwater zone (White Clay Creek, Delaware, USA). Nitrate removal capacity initially increases with downstream distance as tidal range increases but then declines as sediment grain size and permeability decrease, limiting the supply of nitrate to the riparian aquifer. Over the entire model reach, nitrification provides roughly the same amount of nitrate as the combined contributions from surface and groundwater. More than half (~66%) of nitrate removed via denitrification is produced in-situ, while the vast majority of remaining nitrate removed comes from groundwater sources. In contrast, average nitrate removal from surface water due to tidal pumping amounts to only 1.77 kg of nitrate along the reach each day, or ~1% of the average daily in-channel riverine nitrate load. As a result, tidal bank storage zones may not be major sinks for nitrate in coastal rivers, but can act as effective sinks for groundwater nitrate. By extension, tidal bank storage zones provide a critical ecosystem service, reducing contributions of groundwater nitrate, often derived from septic tanks and fertilizers, to coastal rivers.

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Resource Level Coverage


Coordinate System/Geographic Projection:
WGS 84 EPSG:4326
Coordinate Units:
Decimal degrees
Place/Area Name:
White Clay Creek



Funding Agencies

This resource was created using funding from the following sources:
Agency Name Award Title Award Number
National Science Foundation EAR 1752995
National Science Foundation EAR 1446724
Geologic Society of America

How to Cite

Wallace, C. D., A. H. Sawyer, R. T. Barnes, M. R. Soltanian, R. S. Gabor, M. J. Wilkins, M. T. Moore (2019). A model analysis of the tidal engine that drives nitrogen cycling in coastal riparian aquifers, HydroShare, http://www.hydroshare.org/resource/39abb2d1a3614b88afc02b22b77021a2

This resource is shared under the Creative Commons Attribution CC BY.



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