Influence of Seasonal Variations in Sea Level on the Salinity Regime of a Coastal Groundwater-Fed Wetland

Cameron Wood, Glenn Harrington

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    Seasonal variations in sea level are often neglected in studies of coastal aquifers; however, they may have important controls on processes such as submarine groundwater discharge, sea water intrusion, and groundwater discharge to coastal springs and wetlands. We investigated seasonal variations in salinity in a groundwater-fed coastal wetland (the RAMSAR listed Piccaninnie Ponds in South Australia) and found that salinity peaked during winter, coincident with seasonal sea level peaks. Closer examination of salinity variations revealed a relationship between changes in sea level and changes in salinity, indicating that sea level-driven movement of the fresh water-sea water interface influences the salinity of discharging groundwater in the wetland. Moreover, the seasonal control of sea level on wetland salinity seems to override the influence of seasonal recharge. A two-dimensional variable density model helped validate this conceptual model of coastal groundwater discharge by showing that fluctuations in groundwater salinity in a coastal aquifer can be driven by a seasonal coastal boundary condition in spite of seasonal recharge/discharge dynamics. Because seasonal variations in sea level and coastal wetlands are ubiquitous throughout the world, these findings have important implications for monitoring and management of coastal groundwater-dependent ecosystems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)90-98
    Number of pages9
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


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