, Volume 81, Issue 3, pp 331–347 | Cite as

Physical, biogeochemical and isotopic processes related to heterogeneity of a shallow crystalline rock aquifer

  • Virginie Ayraud
  • Luc AquilinaEmail author
  • Hélène Pauwels
  • Thierry Labasque
  • Anne-Catherine Pierson-Wickmann
  • Anne-Marie Aquilina
  • Geneviève Gallat
Original Paper


This study deals with the chemical characterization of the biogeochemical processes occurring in a shallow aquifer in crystalline rocks. The influence of rock heterogeneity and the related physical processes on the aquifer biogeochemistry have been investigated. A hydrochemical survey (major anion and cation analysis) shows that rock heterogeneity leads to a stronger spatial than temporal variability. Some rapidly recharged and low- mineralized waters are present at the soil/rock interface. However the pumped well intersects a preferential flow path and pumps nitrate-rich water. Sulfur and oxygen isotope data from sulfates in the pumped water clearly show sulfide oxidation with only 20–30% of the oxygen atoms in sulfates formed by sulfide oxidation coming from atmospheric oxygen. This low contribution of molecular oxygen in sulfide oxidation, associated with the drastic decrease in nitrate concentration, involves a marked relationship between the nitrogen and sulfur cycles through denitrification, coupled with sulfide oxidation. Conversely, for rapidly recharged waters, the rock physical heterogeneity allows sulfide oxidation by molecular oxygen indicated by a contribution of atmospheric oxygen of nearly 70% in the newly formed sulfate. As the aquifer biogeochemistry is controlled by the physical characteristics of the rocks, pumping may overcome the natural flux pattern described previously. This anthropogenic disturbance leads to a modification of water pathways (spatial mixing or relative contribution of the fracture/matrix waters to the global fluxes) and, consequently, to a modification of the physical and biogeochemical processes occurring in the aquifer.


Groundwater Isotopic analyses Rock physical heterogeneity Denitrification 


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Thanks to municipality and CGE (particularly to Anthony Rohou) for the site access. Thanks to Yves Quété for sharing his knowledge about investigated site. Thanks to Odile Hénin, Patrice Petitjean and Martine Bouhnik-Le Coz, for analyses. Financial and field support have been provided by the region Bretagne regional Council (PRIR DATEAU) and BRGM (funding of V. Ayraud thesis).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Virginie Ayraud
    • 1
    • 2
  • Luc Aquilina
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hélène Pauwels
    • 2
  • Thierry Labasque
    • 1
  • Anne-Catherine Pierson-Wickmann
    • 1
  • Anne-Marie Aquilina
    • 3
  • Geneviève Gallat
    • 4
  1. 1.CAREN - Géosciences, UMR 6118 Université Rennes1-CNRSRennesFrance
  2. 2.BRGM Water DepartmentOrléans cedexFrance
  3. 3.SIAEP Rennes NordThorigné-FouillardFrance
  4. 4.GéoarmorRennesFrance

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