Groundwater dependence of coastal lagoons: the case of La Pletera salt marshes (NE Catalonia

Coastal wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems of the world, playing an important role in coastal defense and wildlife conservation. These ecosystems, however, are usually affected by human activities, which may cause a loss and degradation of their ecological status, a decline of their biodiversity, an alteration of their ecological functioning, and a limitation of their ecosystem services. La Pletera salt marshes (NE Spain) are located in a region mainly dominated by agriculture and tourism activities. Part of these wetlands and lagoons has been affected by an incomplete construction of an urban development and in this moment is the focus of a Life+ project, whose aim is to restore this protected area. Several studies have analyzed the role of hydrological regime in nutrients, phytoplankton and zooplankton in this area, however, the role of groundwater was never considered as a relevant factor in the lagoon dynamics, and its influence is still unknown. In this study, the hydrogeological dynamics in La Pletera salt marshes has been analyzed, as a basis to set sustainable management guidelines for this area. In order to determine their dependence on groundwater resources, monthly hydrochemical (with major ions and nutrients) and isotopic (δ18OH2O and δD) campaigns have been conducted, from November 2014 to October 2015. In particular, groundwater from six wells, surface water from two nearby streams and three permanent lagoons, and sea water was considered in these surveys. Taking into account the meteorological data and the water levels in the lagoons, the General Lake Model has been conducted to determine, not only evaporation and rainfall occurring in the lagoons, but also the total inflows and outflows. In addition, the Gonfiantini isotopic model, together with equilibrium chemical-speciation/mass transfer models, has been used to analyze the evaporation and the physicochemical processes affecting the lagoons. Results show that during the dry season groundwater inputs may account for 15–80% of the water in La Pletera lagoons. Besides, water salinity depends on two main processes: 1) mixing of fresh and sea water occurring within the lagoons or in the aquifer; and 2) evaporation. According to the obtained results, the goal of preserving La Pletera lagoons and their salinity conditions implies maintaining groundwater fluxes towards the ocean, and also the hydraulic connectivity of these lagoons with the aquifer ​
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