Nutrient dynamics as indicators of karst processes: Comparison of the Chalk aquifer (Normandy, France) and the Edwards aquifer (Texas, U.S.A.)

Abstract : Karst aquifers display a range of geologic and geomorphic characteristics in a wide range of climatic and land-use settings; identification of transport dynamics representative of karst aquifers in general could help advance our understanding of these complex systems. To this end, nutrient, turbidity, and major ion dynamics in response to storms were compared at multiple sites in two karst aquifers with contrasting characteristics and settings: the Chalk aquifer (Eure Department, Normandy, France) and the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer (Texas, U.S.A.). The Chalk aquifer is typified by high matrix porosity, thick surficial deposits (up to 30 m thick), and agricultural land use; the Barton Springs segment is typified by low matrix porosity, outcropping limestone, and urban land use. Following one to three storms, from 5 to 16 samples from springs and wells were analyzed for major ions, and specific conductance and turbidity were monitored continuously. Comparison of the chemographs indicated some generalized responses, including an increase in turbidity and potassium concentrations and a decrease in major ion and nitrate concentrations with infiltrating storm runoff. Factor analysis of major ions and turbidity revealed strikingly similar behavior of the chemical variables for the two aquifers: The first two factors, explaining more than 75% of the variability, illustrate that dynamics of most major ions (including nitrate) are opposed to those of turbidity and of potassium. The results demonstrate that potassium and nitrate are effective tracers of infiltrating storm runoff and resident ground water, respectively, and the similar results for these two highly contrasting aquifers suggest that the dynamics identified might be applicable to karst systems in general.
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Submitted on : Thursday, October 23, 2008 - 3:14:31 PM
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B.J. Mahler, D. Valdes, M. Musgrove, Nicolas Massei. Nutrient dynamics as indicators of karst processes: Comparison of the Chalk aquifer (Normandy, France) and the Edwards aquifer (Texas, U.S.A.). Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, Elsevier, 2008, 98 (1-2), pp.36-49. ⟨10.1016/j.jconhyd.2008.02.006⟩. ⟨hal-00333562⟩



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