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Connecting Groundwater and Surface Water Sources in Groundwater Dependent Coastal Wetlands and Estuaries: Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Abstract

Groundwater and surface water samples were collected in five different regions of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (SKBR) along the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Samples were analyzed for major ions, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, δ18O, and δ2H. Chemical modeling and a coupled principal component analysis and end-member mixing model were used to identify three groundwater sources that discharge to the coastal wetlands and estuaries of the SKBR. A sulfate-dominated and a calcium-dominated fresh groundwater source were found to contribute significantly to the headwaters of a southern and northern SKBR estuary, respectively. In the northern part of the Reserve, an elevated road disrupts the flow of freshwater through the estuarine zone creating hypersaline conditions and mangrove dead-zones. In a more pristine estuary to the south, coastal groundwater discharge associated with petens (tree islands) accounted for ∼20 % of the surface water in the mid-estuary. This coastal groundwater discharge from the petens adds a significant amount of phosphorus to the surface water in the estuary relative to the upstream and downstream sources. The lower alkalinity measured in the surface water relative to the high-alkalinity groundwater, despite clear indication of groundwater discharge, suggests that inorganic carbon export through degassing of CO2 could represent important carbon process in mangrove ecosystems. Our results indicate an important groundwater discharge mechanism that may facilitate nutrient delivery to karstic, oligotrophic estuaries when upland and marine nutrient supplies are depleted.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported directly by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Grant No. DBI-0620409 and the NASA WaterSCAPES program under Grant No. NNX-10AQ13A. Field and travel support were provided by the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP) and Amigos de Sian Ka’an in Cancun, Mexico; and the Centro de Investigacion y de Estudios Avanzados (CINVESTAV) Unidad Merida in Merida, Mexico. Additional financial support was provided by the Florida Education Fund McKnight Dissertation Year Fellowship. This is contribution number 690 from the Southeast Environmental Research Center at Florida International University.

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Correspondence to David Lagomasino.

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Lagomasino, D., Price, R.M., Herrera-Silveira, J. et al. Connecting Groundwater and Surface Water Sources in Groundwater Dependent Coastal Wetlands and Estuaries: Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Estuaries and Coasts 38, 1744–1763 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-014-9892-4

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Keywords

  • Groundwater discharge
  • Oligotrophic
  • Eutrophic
  • Phosphorus
  • Mangroves
  • Hypersaline