Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Submarine groundwater discharge impacts on coastal nutrient biogeochemistry


Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) links terrestrial and marine systems, but has often been overlooked in coastal nutrient budgets because it is difficult to quantify. In this Review, we examine SGD nutrient fluxes in over 200 locations globally, explain their impact on biogeochemistry and discuss broader management implications. SGD nutrient fluxes exceed river inputs in ~60% of study sites, with median total SGD fluxes of 6.0 mmol m−2 per day for dissolved inorganic nitrogen, 0.1 mmol m−2 per day for dissolved inorganic phosphorus and 6.5 mmol m−2 per day for dissolved silicate. SGD nitrogen input (mostly in the form of ammonium and dissolved organic nitrogen) often mitigates nitrogen limitation in coastal waters, since SGD tends to have high nitrogen concentrations relative to phosphorus (76% of studies showed N:P values above the Redfield ratio). It is notable that most investigations do not distinguish saline and fresh SGD, although they have different properties. Saline SGD is a ubiquitous, diffuse pathway releasing mostly recycled nutrients to global coastal waters, whereas fresh SGD is occasionally a local, point source of new nutrients. SGD-derived nutrient fluxes must be considered in water quality management plans, as these inputs can promote eutrophication if not properly managed.

Key points

  • Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) is an essential component of biogeochemical budgets. Fresh SGD is a source of new nutrients, whereas saline SGD often releases recycled nutrients from sediments.

  • SGD-derived nitrogen fluxes exceeded river inputs in ~60% of the reviewed cases and usually counteracted nitrogen limitation in coastal waters due to high N:P exceeding the Redfield ratio.

  • Positive impacts of SGD on coastal ecosystems include enhanced coral calcification, primary productivity, fisheries, denitrification and pollutant attenuation.

  • Negative impacts of SGD include eutrophication, algal blooms, deoxygenation and localized ocean acidification, depending on site-specific conditions.

  • Considering SGD is crucial to reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals pollution targets. The US Supreme Court decision to consider SGD under the Clean Water Act represents a positive policy change, signalling broader appreciation of SGD impacts.


Excessive anthropogenic nutrient inputs drive widespread eutrophication in global coastal waters1,2. Despite large investments to reduce nutrient inputs from wastewater and urban and agricultural runoff3,4, coastal eutrophication and hypoxia continue intensifying worldwide, even where these conventional nutrient sources have decreased5,6,7. Alternative nutrient sources and pathways such as submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) also contribute to persistent water quality issues in the coastal ocean2. Pioneering local-scale research in the 1980s revealed extremely high nitrate concentrations in fresh coastal groundwater in Western Australia8, where fresh SGD fluxes exceeded river nitrate loads and explained ~50% of local primary productivity9.

Quantitative investigations have since revealed that SGD delivers nutrients and affects water quality in diverse coastal ecosystems, such as estuaries10,11, coral reefs12,13,14, coastal embayments and lagoons15,16,17, intertidal wetlands such as mangroves18,19 and saltmarshes20,21,22, the continental shelf23,24,25 and even the global ocean26. Nevertheless, nutrient fluxes via SGD remain overlooked in most coastal nutrient budgets and water quality models27. SGD occurs on timescales of hours to millennia, spatial scales of metres to kilometres and as a low flux over large areas, making it challenging to quantify28 and, thus, sometimes misinterpreted. As a result, SGD has often been considered a nutrient source to coastal waters only after the ‘standard’ pathways, such as atmospheric deposition, rivers and sewage, are ruled out.

SGD is ubiquitous in sandy, muddy and rocky shorelines and represents a combination of fresh and saline groundwater interacting with coastal surface waters29,30 (Fig. 1). Fresh SGD is driven by a positive terrestrial hydraulic gradient and emerges from shallow or deep aquifers intersecting the shoreline31,32 carrying natural and anthropogenic nutrients from land. Saline SGD (sometimes also referred to as seawater circulation in sediments) is defined as the advection of saline groundwater through intertidal zone sediments and/or across the coastal seafloor, and/or advective porewater exchange on scales larger than one metre28,30,33. Saline groundwater also mixes with fresh SGD owing to the interactions of tides and waves, density-driven flow and dispersion processes34, with the resulting brackish SGD transporting both land-derived and marine-derived nutrients30,35. Brackish SGD occurs further offshore, where confined aquifers intersect embayments and on the continental shelf31,36. These deeper aquifers are less vulnerable to nutrient contamination from onshore activities because of geological isolation. Where land-derived nutrients are present in confined aquifers, travel times offshore can reach centuries or longer37.

Fig. 1: The nitrogen cycle in sandy, muddy and rocky coastal aquifers.

The sizes of the background arrows qualitatively indicate the relative magnitude of fresh and saline submarine groundwater discharge (SGD). a | Sandy coasts are often characterized as having brackish SGD with higher concentrations of ammonium (NH4+) and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) than nitrate (NO3). b | Muddy coasts often host burrowing fauna, which create secondary sediment permeability and promote aerobic mineralization, nitrate reduction and saline SGD. c | Rocky coast SGD tends to be dominated by freshwater, with relatively high concentrations of NO3 relative to DON and NH4+. DNRA, dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium; OM, organic matter; POM, particulate organic matter.

In this Review, we discuss how fresh and saline SGD drive coastal nutrient dynamics. We summarize SGD fluxes, speciation and distribution of nitrogen, phosphorus and silicon in coastal regions globally. This discussion draws on the considerable growth in the SGD literature in the last ~25 years following the development of geochemical tracer approaches, such as radon and radium isotope mass balance models38,39,40, seepage meters41, hydrogeological models42,43,44, resistivity45,46 and infrared imaging techniques47,48. We also put SGD into an ecosystem perspective with thorough comparisons with river-derived nutrient fluxes. Finally, we review the biological implications of SGD and how SGD can be incorporated into water quality management plans and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Fresh versus saline groundwater

The distinction between fresh and saline SGD is important to consider when interpreting nutrient fluxes to the coastal ocean49,50,51 (Fig. 1). Fresh SGD is a source of new water and dissolved species from the marine perspective. In contrast, saline SGD often flushes out recycled nutrients generated during the degradation of sediment organic matter, as well as external nutrient sources entrained from the mixing of fresh and saline waters35,52. Saline SGD has a net zero water volume exchange over timescales longer than the cyclic pressure oscillations driving it. Seawater that infiltrates coastal sediments eventually returns to the ocean with a different chemical composition53 on timescales ranging from days to weeks when driven by tides or storms35,54,55, and from seasons to years when driven by convection or sea-level oscillations56,57,58,59. Much emphasis has been given to ubiquitous nearshore tidally driven saline SGD with semi-diurnal, diurnal or fortnightly variations34,60. Fewer studies have addressed irregular forcing, such as varying wave conditions61, storms62, estuarine density inversions63 or sea-level anomalies64, that can flush the upper few metres of coastal permeable sediments and produce large episodic pulses or seasonal offshore saline SGD65 and deliver both new and recycled nutrients.

The volume of fresh SGD entering the global ocean is relatively small compared with rivers66,67, accounting for ~1% of total freshwater inputs to the ocean and <1% of total SGD68. Fresh SGD is substantial, although, in certain regions such as mountainous, active coastlines in South America and in the tropics, where precipitation, permeability and hydraulic heads are high and surface runoff is low67,69,70. Fresh groundwater can locally represent the dominant SGD component in karstic carbonate or volcanic systems, where SGD is often transferred to the ocean through fractures or preferential flow paths that result in submarine springs or point-sourced seeps71,72,73. Fertilizer, animal manure, cesspools and septic systems can leach nutrients into fresh groundwater (Fig. 1), such that nutrient fluxes from fresh groundwater increase the risk of eutrophication in 14–26% of the global coastline associated with estuaries, saltmarshes and coral reefs66. However, regional-scale and global-scale estimates of fresh SGD have greater uncertainties than any other water flux, including permafrost melting and ice discharge to the ocean74, although the uncertainties of SGD are often poorly quantified75,76.

The global distribution of saline SGD is less understood than that of fresh SGD and scales with the permeability of coastal sediments and tidal and wave energy. Saline SGD is well known to exceed fresh SGD at most sites where it has been quantified33,35,49,50,56,77,78,79,80,81, and also substantially exceeds river discharge at a global scale68. Recycled and new nitrogen and phosphorus are slowly released to surface waters by saline SGD, minimizing extremes and/or buffering the natural seasonal variability of seawater nutrient concentrations82,83,84,85. This slow and continuous release of nutrients can sustain primary production, especially in the absence of other external nutrient sources86. For example, phosphorus is sorbed onto sediments and can be released to groundwater decades later when the chemical conditions become favourable to desorption87,88,89. In the case of dissolved silicate (DSi), saline SGD releases both recycled biogenic silica and some new DSi via dissolution of minerals79. If surface water nutrient concentrations exceed coastal saline groundwater concentrations, then saline SGD can enhance microbial denitrification by consuming nitrate and, thus, attenuate nitrogen pollution90. For example, saline groundwater flow through intertidal sediments removes nitrogen from surface waters in coastal wetlands receiving high nitrogen loads91. Most of the global SGD inputs of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN), dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) and DSi seem to be derived from saline SGD26, with fresh SGD representing a minor contribution66. However, at sites where fresh SGD is volumetrically important (usually karst or volcanic landscapes with high permeability) (Fig. 1), nutrient fluxes supplied by fresh SGD dominate the local nutrient sources to coastal waters49,92,93.

Fresh and saline SGD pathways vary between sandy, muddy and rocky coastlines, owing to the unique hydrogeological characteristics of coastal aquifers. Sandy coasts generally consist of highly permeable sediments that effectively connect aquifers to the coastal ocean (Fig. 1a). A typical unconfined surficial sandy aquifer stores fresh groundwater from upland regions, discharging to the sea within or below the intertidal zone. Tidal or wave dynamics can create seawater circulation cells nearshore within beach sediments94,95, while various forcing mechanisms can drive saline SGD farther offshore52,65,96,97,98. In contrast, muddy coasts dominated by mangroves and saltmarshes (Fig. 1b) are characterized by lower permeability sediments that facilitate saline SGD once the secondary permeability has been enhanced by burrows, root structures or buried vegetation99,100,101,102. Rocky coasts (Fig. 1c) contain fractures and/or conduits that allow direct fresh SGD flows to the sea with no or minor biogeochemical transformations14,69,103,104. The fresh SGD component is usually expected to exceed saline SGD in karst and volcanic coastal aquifers, with fresh groundwater flows susceptible to regulation by tidal forcing mechanisms46,104.

Topography and geomorphology can also influence SGD, but the effects remain largely unquantified. For example, the regional topography of the coastal zone dictates the slope of the water table and the inland hydraulic gradient in coastal unconfined aquifers, which, in turn, influences fresh SGD105,106. Nearshore morphological features, such as beach slope breaks, tidal creeks and heterogeneous stratigraphy, affect seawater circulation in beaches and saline SGD, as observed and modelled in a coarse carbonate sand aquifer on the Cook Islands107,108 and in saltmarshes in China100,109.

Fresh SGD carries land-derived nutrients that are an external nutrient source to coastal waters, with considerable variability between sandy, muddy and rocky coastlines. For example, seagrass, mangrove and saltmarsh vegetation assimilate nutrients directly from groundwater (Fig. 1b). Sediment properties like organic matter content control oxidation-reduction potential and the energetic favourability of denitrification. Phosphorus or silicate-bearing minerals in rocks can act as a natural source of DIP and DSi, whereas iron oxides immobilize DIP through sorption87. Phosphorus can be released back to porewater when iron oxides are reduced, as observed in saltmarshes110,111 and sandy aquifers87 exposed to both fresh and saline SGD. SGD nutrient inputs are also conditioned by the discharge type. Slow, diffusive fresh and saline SGD through sandy permeable sediments allow for greater nutrient transformations in subterranean estuaries82,112,113, but rapid fresh groundwater discharges through conduits (for example, karstic or volcanic aquifers) prevent substantial nutrient attenuation114,115. Fresh and saline SGD ultimately deliver regenerated nutrients associated with the decomposition of organic matter in soils and sediments, and these natural and internal nutrient sources are also a component of nutrient budgets in coastal marine waters116,117.

Global distribution of SGD studies

Here, we compiled fresh and/or saline SGD-derived fluxes of at N, P and/or Si reported by 239 study cases from 31 countries (Fig. 2, Supplementary Table 1). Most of the flux data relied on radon (27%) and radium (45%) isotope measurement of SGD rates. These methods result in SGD rates that are, on average, a factor of two greater than estimates based on modelling approaches (Supplementary Table 2), likely reflecting the large number of marine processes driving (mostly saline) SGD that are captured by radon and radium isotopes34,118, whereas hydrological models quantify specific driving forces and components of fresh and saline SGD33,119,120.

Fig. 2: SGD rates from study cases reviewed here.

a | Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) fluxes globally, colour-coded by ecosystem type, where the size of the circle represents the reported SGD rate. Similar maps for each nutrient are shown in the supplementary material. Investigations where SGD rates are reported without any nutrient fluxes were not included in the compilation. b | SGD in Hawaii, USA, with ecosystems coloured and rates scaled as above. c | SGD in the Mediterranean. d | SGD on the east coast of the USA. e | SGD in East Asia. f | SGD on the eastern coast of Australia.

From a climatic zone perspective, SGD nutrient investigations are similarly split between the tropics (27%), subtropics (30%) and temperate (32%) regions (Fig. 2). Polar regions remain severely understudied, with only two studies quantifying SGD-derived nitrogen fluxes in Alaska121. Of all studies in the tropics, 50% are located in Asia and 25% are from the Hawaiian Islands. In the subtropics, 37% of the studies are from the USA alone, and only 19% of the study sites are located in the Southern Hemisphere (primarily Australia). Temperate regions between 35° and 60° are mainly represented by Europe (38%) and the east coast of the USA (26%), and are highly skewed to the Northern Hemisphere (93%). In total, 38% (n = 79) of the compiled studies were from Asia, followed by North America (33%), Europe (16%) and Australia/Oceania (11%). Only two investigations quantified SGD-derived nitrogen inputs in South America (bay and lagoon ecosystems in Brazil25,122) and three in Africa (estuary and lagoon ecosystems in Egypt123 and South Africa124). Thus, there is a clear need to conduct SGD investigations in poorly represented areas in Africa, South America and high latitudes across all ecosystem types. The limited existing datasets and large uncertainties in individual estimates prevent inferring any specific pattern across different climates (Supplementary Table 3).

Several interesting inferences emerge comparing measurements between ocean basins. Median (and interquartile range) SGD rates and inorganic nutrient fluxes are greatest for the Indian Ocean (SGD = 17, 5–48 cm per day; DIN = 11, 3–29 mmol m−2 per day), where there was the smallest number of study cases (Supplementary Table 4). For the Pacific Ocean, median SGD rates (9, 2–22 cm per day) and DIN (8, 2–27 mmol m−2 per day) and DSi (9, 2–60 mmol m−2 per day) fluxes exceed those of the Atlantic Ocean (SGD = 4, 1–10 cm per day; DIN = 2, 2–60 mmol m−2 per day; DSi = 2, 0–12 mmol m−2 per day), in spite of a large natural variability. The differences in DSi fluxes are likely driven by differences in continental lithology and the presence of active (Pacific) and passive (Atlantic) margins125. The median DIP flux for the Mediterranean Sea (0.03, 0.01–0.10 mmol m−2 per day; n = 24) is approximately three times lower than that of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans (0.10, 0.02–0.48 mmol m−2 per day), because the Mediterranean coastline hosts many karstified aquifers that retain phosphate126.

From the synthesis here, sites with high SGD-derived DIN fluxes are often located in regions with contaminated coastal aquifers. These sites include groundwater flowing across septic systems in Hawaii127, heavily fertilized catchments in the northeast USA128, urban embayments in China129 and coastal aquifers with naturally high nitrate due to large bird populations13. High DIN fluxes in coral reefs and estuaries (Fig. 3) might be due to measurement bias towards ecosystems that are already known to be impacted by nutrient enrichment. For example, in Waquoit Bay (MA, USA), excessive macroalgal growth and eutrophication have been linked to SGD from multiple perspectives and methods41,130,131. However, fresh and saline SGD can sustain relatively high nitrogen fluxes, even at sites with no apparent anthropogenic contamination sources, such as protected saltmarshes on the USA east coast22,110,132.

Fig. 3: SGD-derived DIN, DIP and DSi fluxes based on different spatial scales and ecosystem types.

a | Average submarine groundwater discharge (SGD)-derived dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN), dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) and dissolved silicate (DSi) fluxes, separated by scale of the investigation. b | SGD-derived nutrient fluxes based on ecosystem type. Medians are noted by the red lines. Data and references are shown in the supplementary online material. IQR, interquartile range.

The study sites considered ranged from small nearshore sites that spanned ~100 m2 along beaches133,134 to large regions that spanned marginal seas such as the Mediterranean Sea126 and the Yellow Sea135, or the global ocean26. Although there was no direct correlation between the area covered by individual study cases and SGD rates or related nutrient fluxes, grouping the available data into three major classes revealed greater nutrient fluxes on the small (<1 km2) scale than larger scales (Fig. 3, Supplementary Table 5). This difference could be related to the tendency for small-scale studies to focus on areas where fresh SGD fluxes or nutrient concentrations are likely to be large32. These locations include known coastal springs, heads of embayments where fresh groundwater converges or polluted aquifers of particular concern. Additionally, the ratio of surface water area to the shoreline length is much smaller in small-scale studies than in large-scale investigations, which can also explain the scale dependence of SGD fluxes. Median SGD-derived DIN and DIP fluxes in nearshore systems such as estuaries, mangroves, saltmarshes, coral reefs and bays were greater than those in offshore systems such as marginal seas and continental shelves (Fig. 3, Supplementary Table 6). Larger ecosystems often have lower reported SGD rates and related nutrient fluxes. For example, the median DSi fluxes via SGD are largest in estuaries and wetlands and smallest in marginal seas and continental shelves.

Nutrient ratios and speciation

Biogeochemical transformations within coastal aquifers and subterranean estuaries (where fresh and saline groundwater mix136,137,138) dramatically modify nutrient concentrations and chemical speciation along SGD flow paths112,117,125,131,139. Indeed, there are salinity gradients and differences between the pH, oxidation-reduction potential and organic matter content of groundwater flow paths and mixing zones that lead to changes in nutrient chemistry before SGD reaches the ocean. Quantifying these transformations is challenging yet essential for estimating total SGD (fresh + saline) nutrient fluxes138,140. Some recent investigations bypass this challenge by collecting samples directly from the discharging groundwater, presumably after all biogeochemical transformations within the subterranean estuary have taken place141,142,143,144. Others rely on onshore fresh groundwater samples to estimate the groundwater endmember under the assumption of minor transformations within the subterranean estuary145,146,147.

Sandy, muddy and rocky aquifers have different hydrological and biogeochemical regimes, and nitrogen dynamics in these locations are differently affected by SGD. Nitrogen has a complex behaviour depending on redox conditions, the abundance of oxygen and organic carbon, and microbial communities21,90,148. Soil organic matter is remineralized by microorganisms in oxic or anoxic conditions149, resulting in ammonium release. Ammonium is readily oxidized to nitrate through nitrification in the presence of oxygen (Fig. 1a). Because of oxygen paucity in many organic-rich coastal aquifers, nitrification is generally constrained to the sediment surface, but can become very important in the presence of burrowing animals in muddy sediments150 (Fig. 1b). In sandy and muddy coastal areas, nitrogen fixation related to abundant sulfate-reducing bacteria in intertidal sediments can eventually turn atmospheric N2 into ammonium151,152, which can be easily incorporated into organic matter and infiltrate subterranean estuaries, owing to waves and tides (Fig. 1a,b).

Nitrate is removed by the microbial conversion to N2 through denitrification in the absence of oxygen and the presence of organic carbon in muds and sand aquifers90,140,153. Nitrate can be converted back to ammonium by the dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA)154, both of which can be enhanced by tidally driven SGD in muddy intertidal marshes155 or permeable sands156,157,158. Moreover, both ammonium and nitrate are also temporarily removed by microbial and plant uptake (Fig. 1b). In contrast to muddy and sandy coasts, however, high nitrate loading and oxygen presence in volcanic and karst coasts (as in Hawaii, Yucatan and in the Mediterranean) lead to a simplified nitrogen cycle, with little nitrate attenuation and high export to the sea72,115,159,160 (Fig. 1c).

The ratio of nutrients supplied to coastal waters (Fig. 4a) can limit primary production and influence biological communities if the source differs substantially from the Redfield ratio161. In the absence of anthropogenic sources, the coastal ocean is often nitrogen-limited, owing to efficient coupling between primary producer uptake, microbial mineralization and sediment denitrification162,163. As a result, groundwater inputs with a high N:P or N:Si ratio can encourage the growth of certain phytoplankton groups163. For example, diatom blooms often occur at N:Si ratios lower than 1, whereas harmful species (usually dinoflagellates) usually bloom at higher ratios164. The DIN:DIP ratios in SGD were above the Redfield ratio of 16:1 in 75% of the study sites, demonstrating that SGD often attenuates nitrogen limitation and stimulates primary productivity in coastal waters (Fig. 4a). The DIN:DIP ratios in SGD study cases ranged from 1 to 12,100 (average ± standard deviation = 259 ± 1,090; n = 169) and the DIN:DSi ratios ranged from 0.1 to 47.5 (2.0 ± 5.4; n = 96). Based on those ratios, SGD in 58% of the compiled study sites had Si-enriched conditions, 36% were N-enriched and 6% were P-enriched relative to the Redfield ratio (Fig. 4a). DIN:DIP ratios were usually >16, even at sites classified as Si-enriched, demonstrating that SGD counters N-limited conditions in most coastal waters.

Fig. 4: Nutrient limitation and speciation in SGD versus rivers.

a | Dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN):dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) versus DIN:dissolved silicate (DSi) ratios in submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) from our global compilation, with the same ratios in the ten largest rivers globally included for comparison. b | The relative contribution of the three main nitrogen species in SGD and rivers, showing that SGD is often dominated by ammonium (NH4+) and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), whereas rivers are often dominated by nitrate (represented as NOx) and DON.

High DIN:DIP ratios in SGD are expected, as phosphorus is often immobilized through adsorption to mineral surface sites of Fe/Mn oxides87,89,165 or scavenged by co-precipitation with calcium carbonate166. Hence, in hypoxic and anoxic aquifers, including saltmarshes and mangroves, DIN:DIP ratios in SGD can be controlled by the seasonal reduction and oxidation cycling of Fe oxides driving DIP88,167,168. Particularly high DIN:DIP ratios are observed in coastal aquifers contaminated by sewage and fertilizers because the phosphorus source is often attenuated faster than nitrogen along groundwater flow paths145. Moreover, groundwater nitrogen from fertilizers applied in the last century can still be found in coastal aquifers37,169. Despite substantial improvements in fertilizer management in some European countries, nitrate concentrations in groundwater have not shown any immediate decreasing trend following reductions in fertilizer application170,171.

Our data compilation supports earlier model predictions145 that the discharge of legacy N-contaminated groundwater will eventually change the coastal ocean from the current N-limited to a P-limited state. Such a pattern has been observed in a SGD-dominated urban embayment in China, where surface water DIN:DIP ratios have increased from 25 to 96 between the 1980s and the mid-2010s, owing to seepage of contaminated SGD172. In the Po river estuary in Italy, a notable increase of DIN:DIP ratios from 47 to 100 between 1970 and 2016 was linked to the discharge of nitrogen-polluted groundwater173. Increasing anthropogenic nitrogen inputs in coastal regions could lead to an increasing N:Si ratio, which provides an unfavourable environment for diatoms, while enhancing the likelihood of dinoflagellates and cyanobacteria blooms174,175.

Although nitrogen is often the nutrient of greatest concern in SGD, few studies have reported detailed nitrogen speciation data. Only 31 studies reported the three major nitrogen species, and 13 studies also reported N speciation in nearby rivers (Fig. 4b). Previous studies often focused on DIN145 (such as nitrate and ammonium, which are more readily available to primary producers) and overlooked SGD-derived DON (which is assimilated at slower rates176) because the contribution of DON to primary production is unknown. Additionally, many SGD studies emphasize nitrate because anthropogenic activities often contribute large nitrate loads115,177,178, yet, only six of the 31 SGD studies reporting ammonium, nitrate and DON found nitrate to be the dominant form of nitrogen. All of those sites were heavily influenced by local contamination sources.

Groundwater and seawater DON is often derived from soil leachates, zooplankton excretion and leaching from microbial and algal biomass that infiltrate subterranean estuaries112,176,179,180. DON increases along the coastal ocean and in surface estuaries, where it often constitutes the largest fraction (73 ± 23%) of the total dissolved nitrogen pool180. Only 40 out of the 239 study sites included here reported DON data, and no study revealed the composition and bioavailability of DON in SGD. On average, DIN accounted for 57 ± 28% (median 61%) and DON accounted for 43 ± 27% (median 39%) of total dissolved nitrogen fluxes via SGD. DON and ammonium are relatively more abundant in non-contaminated groundwater181, but DON may also originate from anthropogenic sources176. Refractory DON uptake is often attributed to heterotrophic bacteria over timescales of millennia, but the less abundant labile DON compounds such as amino acids and urea are used up by autotrophic microbes and phytoplankton on timescales of hours to days180. Because of high DON contributions via SGD (Fig. 4b), even a small labile portion could make a difference to the amount of N ultimately available to primary producers. Overall, our compilation supports earlier suggestions that DON represents a significant portion of nitrogen in SGD141,176,179,182,183.

Comparing SGD and river fluxes

Rivers are often assumed to be the primary nutrient source to coastal waters, so riverine nutrient fluxes provide a valuable reference frame for contextualizing SGD (Fig. 5). Global estimates of nutrient fluxes supplied by riverine discharge to the coastal ocean184,185,186 are on the order of ~40 Tg N per year, ~9 Tg P per year and ~140 Tg Si per year, although these estimates vary widely depending on the model used187,188. River nutrient fluxes vary greatly among the continents, reflecting the regional differences in population, the associated anthropogenic nutrient inputs and the hydrological cycle189,190. For instance, natural sources are the main contributor to N fluxes supplied by rivers in Africa, Oceania and South America, whereas most of the N is supplied by anthropogenic sources in Asia, North America and Europe188.

Fig. 5: River and SGD-derived nutrient inputs to the ocean.

a | A summary of global-scale fluxes compiled from river163,187,188, fresh submarine groundwater discharge (SGD)63 and total (mostly saline) SGD27,65 estimates. b | Histogram of ratios between SGD and river-derived dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN), dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) and dissolved silicate (DSi) fluxes summarized from the global study cases reviewed here. In >48% of the global study cases, SGD-derived nutrient fluxes exceeded river fluxes. In ~90% of the study cases, SGD nutrient fluxes were >10% of river fluxes, making SGD a non-negligible nutrient pathway in nearly all study sites.

Basin-wide or global-scale assessments of SGD have suggested that total SGD-derived nutrient inputs are comparable to or higher than river-derived nutrient fluxes in the Mediterranean Sea126, the coast of China172 and in the global ocean26. For example, total SGD-derived (19 × 1010 mol per year) nitrogen fluxes into the Mediterranean Sea exceed river fluxes (5 × 1010 mol per year)126 by a factor of ~4. Fresh SGD from karstic springs in the Mediterranean, a dominant regional feature, account for 8–31% of these river-derived nitrogen fluxes72. In China, an upscaling of local case studies to the entire coastal zone revealed that total SGD-derived fluxes of nitrogen, phosphorus and silicate account for >50% of all known sources, including rivers, atmospheric deposition and diffusion from sediments172.

At a local scale, SGD-derived nutrient fluxes exceeded river fluxes in >48% of the compiled study cases, and SGD-derived nutrient fluxes were at least 10% of the river fluxes in >90% of the study sites (Fig. 5). Note that several SGD studies did not report riverine fluxes of nutrients, perhaps because they were conducted in areas with no or minor surface runoff114,191. Furthermore, we highlight that any comparison between rivers and SGD at a local scale can be biased, owing to a potential selection of sites where fresh SGD is expected to be high and groundwater pollution is known or expected. Direct comparisons of SGD fluxes across hydrological or land-use gradients using the same method are uncommon, despite observations in Hawaii160 and northeast USA176,192 showing a clear impact of land use on SGD-derived nitrogen fluxes.

Global patterns of SGD and river distributions show a similar dependency on land use, with higher nutrient concentrations and N:P ratios in densely populated and agricultural areas145,172,193,194. However, nutrient fluxes supplied by SGD and rivers might be considerably different, depending on the magnitude of discharge. For instance, about 70% of global SGD occurs in the Indo-Pacific Oceans, while less than half of the river waters are discharged in the Indo-Pacific30. River and SGD fluxes are also considerably different at a local or regional scale. In contrast to river discharge that is restricted to specific point sources along the coast such as river mouths, SGD (particularly the saline component) is ubiquitous along permeable sediment and muddy shorelines, and is relatively diffuse. Therefore, SGD is likely to affect larger coastal areas than river discharges195.

Both SGD-derived and river-derived fluxes of water and dissolved nutrients to the coastal ocean are affected by seasonal patterns in the hydrological cycle. Seasonal changes in recharge, evapotranspiration and groundwater extraction drive water-level changes onshore that propagate offshore by pressure diffusion. As a result, SGD typically experiences a delayed response to seasonal fluctuations relative to river fluxes66. Fresh and saline SGD rates and associated nutrient fluxes can lag peak recharge periods by several months, depending on flow path lengths, aquifer transmissivity, storage properties and recharge volume59,196,197.

Rivers and SGD are characterized by unique stoichiometric ratios and nutrient speciation (Fig. 4). Nitrate accounts for much of the global increase in anthropogenic nitrogen loads in rivers in recent decades198,199. Although rivers are usually dominated by a mixture of nitrate and DON, nitrogen in SGD (particularly saline and brackish) is mostly composed of DON and ammonium, owing to reducing conditions in organic-rich shallow coastal sediments and mineralization of organic matter (Fig. 1). The contrasting nitrogen speciation in SGD and rivers highlights the need for including the three major dissolved nitrogen species in future investigations.

The river nutrient transport to the ocean has more than doubled during the twentieth century184,186,187,200, as a result of increases in population and fertilizer use201. Although no similar datasets exist for long-term changes in total SGD, modelled fresh SGD-derived nitrate fluxes increased by about 40% over the second half of the twentieth century193. Given the slower response of groundwater to anthropogenic nutrient inputs, groundwater polluted several decades ago can continue to discharge, releasing legacy nutrients that impact water quality in rivers and the coast even after pollution sources cease to exist2,202. For instance, recent investigations at the mouth of the Mississippi River revealed that most of the N in surface water had been in the watershed for >30 years, as a consequence of the time spent both in the soils and travelling along slow groundwater transport pathways2,145,193. Therefore, despite the potential mitigation measures aimed at decreasing terrestrial nutrient loads in polluted areas, it can take decades to achieve the desired reduction of SGD-derived nutrient loads2,145,193.

The contribution of groundwater-borne nutrients to coastal ocean budgets will likely increase as human activity in coastal watersheds increases181. Climate-change-derived alterations of precipitation and evapotranspiration regimes, as well as land-use change, are known to modify the quantity, the quality and the availability of groundwater resources203. Climate-driven sea-level rise is also known to modify SGD and biogeochemical cycling within coastal aquifers, and will likely affect the magnitude of SGD-driven nutrient inputs56,64 and its impact on coastal biological communities. However, long-term quantitative predictions about the effects of climate change on SGD are unavailable.

Biological impacts of SGD nutrients

Research on how SGD nutrients impact marine biota has increased in recent years204, with nearly 90% of all articles on this topic having been published in the last decade (see the supplementary material). The documented response of marine organisms to SGD is quite variable and site-specific, and can be positive or negative from species, community or ecosystem perspectives (Fig. 6). The response to SGD is sometimes unclear and could change, depending on the specific location or time of the year.

Fig. 6: The biological impacts of SGD.

The table counts the number of studies demonstrating responses at the species, community and ecosystem scales to submarine groundwater discharge (SGD). SGD can drive multiple biological responses, depending on local conditions. The original references are summarized in the supplementary online material.

The most documented response to SGD-derived nutrient loading is related to increasing primary productivity of phytoplankton or microphytobenthos205. Chlorophyll is often measured as a proxy for primary productivity derived from SGD206 and most attempts to link SGD and chlorophyll have revealed a positive response207 (Fig. 6). The increase in primary productivity by SGD inputs from uncontaminated aquifers has been linked to diatom abundance that effectively use up the nitrogen, particularly in areas where SGD can alleviate co-limitation of N and Si (ref.208). A trend towards larger phytoplankton cell sizes, such as diatoms, in response to SGD was noted in Hawaiian coastal waters receiving fresh SGD209. However, it is clear that increased primary production resulting from SGD nutrient supply does not always exert a positive response in the ecosystem (Fig. 6). Dinoflagellate and cyanobacteria blooms can occur when ammonium is present in SGD or when inorganic nitrogen is transformed by diatoms into organic nitrogen210. As observed in Korea211,212 and Florida (USA)213, SGD can trigger, fuel and sustain harmful algal blooms, with devastating consequences to coastal ecosystems. In some cases, however, no response was found near sites receiving fresh groundwater springs, indicating that SGD loading does not always induce an increase in primary productivity214.

Macrophyte cover can increase or decrease in response to SGD. The most studied macrophyte in a SGD context are Ulva spp., a leafy alga commonly known as sea lettuce, which grows faster and increases in abundance in response to SGD-derived nitrogen inputs191,215. Moreover, nitrogen-rich SGD can also increase the N:P ratio in macrophyte tissues, which can reduce herbivory because fish prefer macrophytes with lower N:P ratios216. However, macrophytes can also reduce reproduction to prioritize growth and take advantage of a nitrogen-rich environment created by SGD217. In Hawaii, for instance, oligotrophic waters receiving N-enriched SGD had increased macroalgae coverage from <15% at low-SGD sites to ~70% at high-SGD sites215. In contrast, eelgrass coverage in eutrophic northeast USA waters reduced from ~50% to <10% in response to SGD N loading, owing to competition with epiphytes growing on their blades218.

In coral reef ecosystems, increases in macrophyte cover in response to increased nutrient supply by SGD corresponded with a decrease in coral cover (Fig. 6), since macrophytes smother and outcompete corals in high-nitrogen conditions219,220. For example, in Hawaii, sites experiencing low SGD had a coral cover of 18%, whereas high-SGD sites had no coral cover215. SGD can lead to a net increase in calcification of corals and other calcifying organisms, owing to increased nutrient supply, as observed in three13,221,222 of the four studies on the topic (Fig. 6). However, this increased calcification is often mitigated by other SGD characteristics, such as low salinity and pH, that can stress corals more than the corals benefit from the nutrients223. Additionally, the coral black band disease can be more prevalent in SGD-impacted areas, where nutrient fluxes either stressed the corals or fuelled the microbes that make up the disease224. Increased respiration related to increased food and organic matter supply caused by SGD nutrients inducing more primary productivity can also stress corals225.

Sites influenced by fresh SGD have been shown to provide favourable conditions to enhance growth rates of mussels226 and oysters227,228. Similarly, increased growth rate and abundance of fish in association with fresh SGD sites have been recently documented229,230, with implications for small-scale fisheries231. In general, fresh SGD positively impacts fisheries, which is also known from experiences from fishermen232. However, fish abundance and diversity showed mixed results in response to SGD nutrients in some cases215,233. Either the SGD-enhanced primary productivity provides enough increase in food at the lower trophic levels that a more diverse community of animals emerges234, or an opportunistic species outcompetes the other organisms, reducing diversity235. Resultant algal blooms236 or the direct input of anoxic groundwaters237 can also lead to low-oxygen events and influence fish behaviour and community composition. Whether the nutrients supplied by SGD benefit or harm a marine ecosystem depends on site-specific conditions (community composition, residence times, original trophic state) and just how much nutrient loading and composition results from SGD. Beyond nutrients, the effects of SGD on salinity or temperature can improve fish growth in coastal waters238.

SGD can also have an indirect biological impact by releasing dissolved inorganic carbon to the coastal ocean as CO2 or alkalinity239,240. SGD can locally enhance seawater pH and partially buffer the coastal ocean against ocean acidification, as observed off mangroves in Australia241,242 and coral reefs around the Cook Islands243, which receive large, SGD-derived alkalinity inputs. By consuming CO2, primary productivity stimulated by SGD-derived nutrient inputs increased seawater pH, which was observed off a Korean volcanic island with large, fresh SGD inputs244. Alternatively, high CO2 from sediment organic matter decomposition54,245,246 or H2SO4 flushed from disturbed acid sulfate soils247,248 can acidify coastal surface waters and modify carbonate chemistry. Whether SGD is a localized driver or buffer of ocean acidification remains to be investigated and is likely to be site-specific.

Societal and management implications

Groundwater is essentially invisible, and its rate of discharge and nutrient chemistry considerably varies along coastlines. The pollution of coastal groundwater is usually investigated in a compartmentalized context, with limited attention to connected surface waters because it can take decades for coastal groundwater to deliver contaminants to surface waters2,202,249. However, there is strong and widespread evidence of the important role of SGD as a coastal nutrient source (Figs 2,5,6), making it essential to determine how and when SGD-derived nutrients enter the ocean. Thus, decision-makers face two opposing risks: ignoring a potentially important nutrient pollution source or wasting monetary resources quantifying a potentially small source. Without a clear understanding of the role of SGD in ecological, economic and social contexts, management policies and water quality legislation cannot become effective250.

SGD has not been considered in legislation and major initiatives such as the EU Water Framework Directive and the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive251. The EU Water Framework Directive aims to achieve “concentrations in the marine environment near background values for naturally occurring substances”252. The European Marine Strategy Framework Directive focuses strongly on terrestrial river inputs to the ocean253 but missed the opportunity to address hidden fresh and saline SGD inputs. Indeed, groundwater governance decisions are often based on its role in terrestrial groundwater-dependent ecosystems, such as lakes and rivers252. Good chemical status for groundwater is defined from a terrestrial ecosystem perspective, overlooking coastal and marine processes such as saltwater intrusion and SGD.

In the United States, the Clean Water Act protects the quality of terrestrial fresh surface water bodies. The extent of protected water bodies has expanded and contracted with the judicial interpretation of what constitutes ‘navigable waters’ over the decades. Recently, the US Supreme Court relied on scientific evidence254 to decide on the applicability of the Clean Water Act to groundwater pollution that reaches the ocean255. The case was based on a demonstration that wastewater effluent injection into a coastal aquifer would damage the nearby marine environment in Hawaii. This court ruling seems to be the first example (at least in the USA, and, perhaps, the world) where legislation has been used to protect a connected coastal surface water–groundwater system. It sets a precedent for new legislation and policies to acknowledge the critical role of groundwater in coastal water quality.

At the local scale, some measures have been introduced to link fresh SGD to coastal seawater pollution. For example, the flow of groundwater from a large septic system in California (USA) has been managed to prevent pollution of popular swimming beaches256 affected by groundwater-borne faecal contamination257. Engineering solutions have been attempted to reduce fresh SGD and secure onshore groundwater use. In particular, attempts to close karstic caves or tap submarine springs were made in the French Mediterranean coast258. In China’s Bohai Sea, underground concrete dams were constructed to prevent connections between seawater and fresh groundwater, reducing SGD and seawater intrusion, and improving local freshwater availability259.

SGD is relevant to a wide range of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For example, SGD connects clearly to Goal 14 ‘Life Below Water; and Target 14.1 to reduce pollution in marine ecosystems. Hence, SGD-derived nutrient fluxes should be considered particularly when sensitive coastal ecosystems degrade194 or during coastal development modifying groundwater–surface water connectivity, such as the construction of drains and canals260. Nutrient fluxes via SGD have been shown to be particularly high in urbanized areas in developing countries such as Indonesia194, the Philippines261 and China172. Because SGD can enhance primary productivity and fish abundance229,230, it would also connect to Goal 2 ‘Zero Hunger’ (Target 2.3), particularly in the context of regional-scale fisheries that are sometimes sustained by SGD-derived nutrient inputs231. SGD affects artisanal fisheries in small-island, tropical developing countries262, where fresh SGD is also especially relevant66,69. Interventions like China’s underground dams that are intended to increase drinking water availability also link SGD management to Goal 6’s Target 6.4 to “ensure sustainable (water) withdrawals” and Target 6.6 to “protect and restore (fresh-)water-related ecosystems” that could exist around submarine springs263. Through sustaining marine ecosystems as well as releasing alkalinity and carbon dioxide to surface waters264, SGD is relevant to Goal 13 ‘Climate Action’.

The cultural value of places is traditionally recognized in planning and legislation. In addition to apparent links to the Sustainable Development Goals, SGD also has local cultural relevance232. Many submarine springs have significant spiritual value and relate to local legends. For example, the magical Hawaiian sea turtle Kauila has been told to have dug local springs for its offspring. The Kaurna Aboriginal people in Australia tell of Tjilbruke, a magical spirit who wept at the beach and made the springs flow. In Bali, the Tanah Lot temple, which was built on a submarine spring to worship a magical being (Dang Hyang Nirartha) that moved the spring from land to the sea, attracts around 2 million visitors annually232. We do not know the abundance of such cases, since the cultural significance of SGD has not been documented in detail.

The connections to multiple Sustainable Development Goals and their cultural relevance illustrate the complexity with which SGD can be intertwined to livelihoods. These connections should justify the assimilation of SGD into coastal management plans, but assimilation has seldom occurred. A more integrated approach considering SGD, not only rivers, is needed to maximize coastal water quality management outcomes250. The slow movement of SGD relative to rivers implies that current contaminant and nutrient flows reflect past inputs, and management approaches must prepare for increasing loads in the decades to come93.

Summary and outlook

Quantifying SGD-derived nutrient fluxes is challenging and involves nuanced assumptions and interpretations, and a wide range of skills in oceanography, hydrology and biogeochemistry. A disciplinary fragmentation, time lags in groundwater flows and slow management responses have created barriers to scientific progress and incorporation of SGD in coastal nutrient budgets. To further build the SGD field and understand how it contributes to coastal nutrient budgets, a number of major research questions remain open (Table 1).

Table 1 A summary of key research topics that require further investigation in the field of submarine groundwater discharge

Our growing knowledge in the last decade shows that considering SGD is clearly essential for developing coastal and marine nutrient budgets on local and global scales. About 60% of the reviewed investigations revealed that total SGD-derived nutrient fluxes exceed rivers on local, regional or global scales. However, SGD studies are generally site-specific and fixed in time, without predictive power. Climate and land-use change are expected to modify patterns of global water use, drive sea-level rise, push or pull seawater into coastal aquifers and modify the chemical composition of groundwater93,203. Combined, these changes are expected to modify fresh and saline SGD. A better understanding of SGD fluxes, drivers and pathways is essential for determining the carrying capacity of coastal seas and their response to increased anthropogenic pressures (Table 1). Nutrient budgets considering SGD are required for the effective interpretation of natural and anthropogenic sources, as well as creating management solutions in highly modified coastal systems.

Large investments have been made on the mitigation of coastal eutrophication and the protection of marine biodiversity. However, recent reductions in river and atmospheric nutrient inputs in developed countries have not been enough to reduce coastal eutrophication and related hypoxic events in key areas such as the Baltic Sea7, the shelf off the Mississippi River265 and the China coast172. As SGD fluxes, pathways and drivers are better understood, it will be possible to detect how changes in SGD relate to disturbances such as land-use change, habitat clearing and climate change.


  1. 1.

    Howarth, R. W. Coastal nitrogen pollution: A review of sources and trends globally and regionally. Harmful Algae 8, 14–20 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Van Meter, K. J., Van Cappellen, P. & Basu, N. B. Legacy nitrogen may prevent achievement of water quality goals in the Gulf of Mexico. Science 360, 427–430 (2018). Revealed how the legacy of nitrogen pollution in soils will eventually reach the coastal ocean, even after sources are controlled.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    HELCOM. First version of the ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ report–June 2017. HELCOM (2017).

  4. 4.

    Ilnicki, P. Emissions of nitrogen and phosphorus into rivers from agricultural land‒selected controversial issues. J. Water Land Dev. 23, 31–39 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Breitburg, D. et al. Declining oxygen in the global ocean and coastal waters. Science 359, eaam7240 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Conley, D. J. et al. Hypoxia is increasing in the coastal zone of the Baltic Sea. Environ. Sci. Technol. 45, 6777–6783 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Carstensen, J., Andersen, J. H., Gustafsson, B. G. & Conley, D. J. Deoxygenation of the Baltic Sea during the last century. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 5628–5633 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Johannes, R. E. The ecological significance of the submarine groundwater discharge. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 3, 365–373 (1980). Pioneering regional-scale demonstration of the importance of SGD-derived nutrient fluxes in Australia.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Johannes, R. E. & Hearn, C. J. The effect of submarine groundwater discharge on nutrient and salinity regimes in a coastal lagoon off Perth, Western Australia. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 21, 789–800 (1985).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Liu, J., Du, J., Wu, Y. & Liu, S. Nutrient input through submarine groundwater discharge in two major Chinese estuaries: the Pearl River Estuary and the Changjiang River Estuary. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 203, 17–28 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Charette, M. A. & Buesseler, K. O. Submarine groundwater discharge of nutrients and copper to an urban subestuary of Chesapeake Bay (Elizabeth River). Limnol. Oceanogr. 49, 376–385 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Paytan, A. et al. Submarine groundwater discharge: An important source of new inorganic nitrogen to coral reef ecosystems. Limnol. Oceanogr. 51, 343–348 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    McMahon, A. & Santos, I. R. Nitrogen enrichment and speciation in a coral reef lagoon driven by groundwater inputs of bird guano. J. Geophys. Res. Oceans 122, 7218–7236 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Oehler, T. et al. Nutrient dynamics in submarine groundwater discharge through a coral reef (western Lombok, Indonesia). Limnol. Oceanogr. 64, 2646–2661 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Lee, Y.-W., Hwang, D.-W., Kim, G., Lee, W.-C. & Oh, H.-T. Nutrient inputs from submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) in Masan Bay, an embayment surrounded by heavily industrialized cities, Korea. Sci. Total Environ. 407, 3181–3188 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Rodellas, V. et al. Submarine groundwater discharge as a source of nutrients and trace metals in a Mediterranean bay (Palma Beach, Balearic Islands). Mar. Chem. 160, 56–66 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Liefer, J. D., MacIntyre, H. L., Su, N. & Burnett, W. C. Seasonal alternation between groundwater discharge and benthic coupling as nutrient sources in a shallow coastal lagoon. Estuar. Coasts 37, 925–940 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Gleeson, J., Santos, I. R., Maher, D. T. & Golsby-Smith, L. Groundwater–surface water exchange in a mangrove tidal creek: Evidence from natural geochemical tracers and implications for nutrient budgets. Mar. Chem. 156, 27–37 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Tait, D. R., Maher, D. T., Sanders, C. J. & Santos, I. R. Radium-derived porewater exchange and dissolved N and P fluxes in mangroves. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 200, 295–309 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Wilson, A. & Morris, J. The influence of tidal forcing on groundwater flow and nutrient exchange in a salt marsh-dominated estuary. Biogeochemistry 108, 27–38 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Tobias, C. R., Macko, S. A., Anderson, I. C., Canuel, E. A. & Harvey, J. W. Tracking the fate of a high concentration groundwater nitrate plume through a fringing marsh: A combined groundwater tracer and in situ isotope enrichment study. Limnol. Oceanogr. 46, 1977–1989 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Moore, W. S., Blanton, J. O. & Joye, S. B. Estimates of flushing times, submarine groundwater discharge, and nutrient fluxes to Okatee Estuary, South Carolina. J. Geophys. Res. 111, C09006 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Smith, C. G. & Swarzenski, P. W. An investigation of submarine groundwater—borne nutrient fluxes to the west Florida shelf and recurrent harmful algal blooms. Limnol. Oceanogr. 57, 471–485 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Wang, X., Baskaran, M., Su, K. & Du, J. The important role of submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) to derive nutrient fluxes into River dominated Ocean Margins – The East China Sea. Mar. Chem. 204, 121–132 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Niencheski, L. F. H., Windom, H. L., Moore, W. S. & Jahnke, R. A. Submarine groundwater discharge of nutrients to the ocean along a coastal lagoon barrier, Southern Brazil. Mar. Chem. 106, 546–561 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Cho, H. M. et al. Radium tracing nutrient inputs through submarine groundwater discharge in the global ocean. Sci. Rep. 8, 2439 (2018). A global estimate of total SGD-derived nutrient fluxes into the ocean.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Sawyer, A. H., David, C. H. & Famiglietti, J. S. Continental patterns of submarine groundwater discharge reveal coastal vulnerabilities. Science 353, 705–707 (2016). Continental-scale modelling revealing hotspots of fresh SGD and nutrient inputs in the United States.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Taniguchi, M. et al. Submarine groundwater discharge: updates on its measurement techniques, geophysical drivers, magnitudes, and effects. Front. Environ. Sci. 7, 141 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Burnett, W., Bokuniewicz, H., Huettel, M., Moore, W. S. & Taniguchi, M. Groundwater and pore water inputs to the coastal zone. Biogeochemistry 66, 3–33 (2003). Established the modern definition of SGD and reviewed progress in the field.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Moore, W. S. The effect of submarine groundwater discharge on the ocean. Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci. 2, 59–88 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Bratton, J. F. The three scales of submarine groundwater flow and discharge across passive continental margins. J. Geol. 118, 565–575 (2010). Discussed the scales of SGD and implications of sea-level rise.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Taniguchi, M., Burnett, W., Cable, J. E. & Turner, J. V. Investigation of submarine groundwater discharge. Hydrol. Process. 16, 2115–2129 (2002). Early compilation of study cases estimating SGD rates.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Burnett, W. C. et al. Quantifying submarine groundwater discharge in the coastal zone via multiple methods. Sci. Total Environ. 367, 498–543 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Robinson, C. E. et al. Groundwater dynamics in subterranean estuaries of coastal unconfined aquifers: Controls on submarine groundwater discharge and chemical inputs to the ocean. Adv. Water Resour. 115, 315–331 (2018). A summary of global experiments comparing methods that have become the essential tools to quantify SGD.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Santos, I. R., Burnett, W. C., Chanton, J., Dimova, N. & Peterson, R. Land or ocean?: Assessing the driving forces of submarine groundwater discharge at a coastal site in the Gulf of Mexico. J. Geophys. Res. 114, C04012 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Post, V. E. A. et al. Offshore fresh groundwater reserves as a global phenomenon. Nature 504, 71–78 (2013). Described SGD beyond the continental shelf with implications for global offshore water resource use and management.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Sanford, W. E. & Pope, J. P. Quantifying groundwater’s role in delaying improvements to Chesapeake Bay water quality. Environ. Sci. Technol. 47, 13330–13338 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Moore, W. S. Large groundwater inputs to coastal environments revealed by 226Ra enrichments. Nature 380, 612–614 (1996). First large-scale quantification of SGD in the coastal ocean using radium-226, inspiring a generation of SGD researchers.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Burnett, W. C., Kim, G. & Lane-Smith, D. A continuous monitor for assessment of 222Rn in the coastal ocean. J. Radioanal. Nucl. Chem. 249, 167–172 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Cable, J. E., Bugna, G. C., Burnett, W. & Chanton, J. P. Application of 222Rn and CH4 for assessment of groundwater discharge to the coastal ocean. Limnol. Oceanogr. 41, 1347–1353 (1996).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Michael, H. A., Lubetsky, J. S. & Harvey, C. F. Characterizing submarine groundwater discharge: A seepage meter study in Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts. Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 1297 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Oberdorfer, J. A. Hydrogeologic modeling of submarine groundwater discharge: Comparison to other quantitative methods. Biogeochemistry 66, 159–169 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Evans, T. B., White, S. M. & Wilson, A. M. Coastal groundwater flow at the nearshore and embayment scales: a field and modeling study. Water Resour. Res. 56, e2019WR026445 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Russoniello, C. J., Heiss, J. W. & Michael, H. A. Variability in benthic exchange rate, depth, and residence time beneath a shallow coastal estuary. J. Geophys. Res. Oceans 123, 1860–1876 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Swarzenski, P. W. et al. Combined time-series resistivity and geochemical tracer techniques to examine submarine groundwater discharge at Dor Beach, Israel. Geophys. Res. Lett. 33, L24405 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Dimova, N. T., Swarzenski, P. W., Dulaiova, H. & Glenn, C. R. Utilizing multichannel electrical resistivity methods to examine the dynamics of the fresh water–seawater interface in two Hawaiian groundwater systems. J. Geophys. Res. Oceans 117, C02012 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Johnson, A. G., Glenn, C. R., Burnett, W. C., Peterson, R. N. & Lucey, P. G. Aerial infrared imaging reveals large nutrient-rich groundwater inputs to the ocean. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L15606 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Wilson, J. & Rocha, C. Regional scale assessment of submarine groundwater discharge in Ireland combining medium resolution satellite imagery and geochemical tracing techniques. Remote Sens. Environ. 119, 21–34 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Weinstein, Y. et al. What is the role of fresh groundwater and recirculated seawater in conveying nutrients to the coastal ocean? Environ. Sci. Technol. 45, 5195–5200 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Sadat-Noori, M., Santos, I. R., Tait, D. R. & Maher, D. T. Fresh meteoric versus recirculated saline groundwater nutrient inputs into a subtropical estuary. Sci. Total Environ. 566–567, 1440–1453 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Rodellas, V. et al. Groundwater-driven nutrient inputs to coastal lagoons: The relevance of lagoon water recirculation as a conveyor of dissolved nutrients. Sci. Total Environ. 642, 764–780 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Wilson, A. M. Fresh and saline groundwater discharge to the ocean: A regional perspective. Water Resour. Res. 41, W0216 (2005).

    Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Correa, R. E. et al. Submarine groundwater discharge and associated nutrient and carbon inputs into Sydney Harbour (Australia). J. Hydrol. 580, 124262 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    Call, M. et al. High pore-water derived CO2 and CH4 emissions from a macro-tidal mangrove creek in the Amazon region. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 247, 106–120 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. 55.

    Seidel, M. et al. Biogeochemistry of dissolved organic matter in an anoxic intertidal creek bank. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 140, 418–434 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. 56.

    Wilson, A. M., Evans, T. B., Moore, W. S., Schutte, C. A. & Joye, S. B. What time scales are important for monitoring tidally influenced submarine groundwater discharge? Insights from a salt marsh. Water Resour. Res. 51, 4198–4207 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. 57.

    Wilson, A. M. The occurrence and chemical implications of geothermal convection of seawater in continental shelves. Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 2127 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. 58.

    Moore, W. S. A reevaluation of submarine groundwater discharge along the southeastern coast of North America. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 24, GB4005 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. 59.

    Gonneea, M. E. & Charette, M. A. Hydrologic controls on nutrient cycling in an unconfined coastal aquifer. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48, 14178–14185 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. 60.

    Santos, I. R. et al. Extended time series measurements of submarine groundwater discharge tracers (222Rn and CH4) at a coastal site in Florida. Mar. Chem. 113, 137–147 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. 61.

    Rodellas, V. et al. Temporal variations in porewater fluxes to a coastal lagoon driven by wind waves and changes in lagoon water depths. J. Hydrol. 581, 124363 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. 62.

    Moore, W. S. & Wilson, A. M. Advective flow through the upper continental shelf driven by storms, buoyancy, and submarine groundwater discharge. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 235, 564–576 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. 63.

    Santos, I. R., Cook, P. L. M., Rogers, L., de Weys, J. & Eyre, B. D. The “salt wedge pump”: Convection-driven pore-water exchange as a source of dissolved organic and inorganic carbon and nitrogen to an estuary. Limnol. Oceanogr. 57, 1415–1426 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. 64.

    Gonneea, M. E., Mulligan, A. E. & Charette, M. A. Climate-driven sea level anomalies modulate coastal groundwater dynamics and discharge. Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 2701–2706 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. 65.

    George, C. et al. A new mechanism for submarine groundwater discharge from continental shelves. Water Resour. Res. 56, e2019WR026866 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. 66.

    Luijendijk, E., Gleeson, T. & Moosdorf, N. Fresh groundwater discharge insignificant for the world’s oceans but important for coastal ecosystems. Nat. Commun. 11, 1260 (2020). A global modelling effort to estimate fresh SGD, identifying regional hotspots.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. 67.

    Zhou, Y., Sawyer, A. H., David, C. H. & Famiglietti, J. S. Fresh submarine groundwater discharge to the near-global coast. Geophys. Res. Lett. 46, 5855–5863 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. 68.

    Kwon, E. Y. et al. Global estimate of submarine groundwater discharge based on an observationally constrained radium isotope model. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 8438–8444 (2014). Estimates global SGD rates based on radium isotopes.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. 69.

    Moosdorf, N., Stieglitz, T., Waska, H., Dürr, H. H. & Hartmann, J. Submarine groundwater discharge from tropical islands: a review. Grundwasser 20, 53–67 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. 70.

    Zhou, Y., Befus, K. M., Sawyer, A. H. & David, C. H. Opportunities and challenges in computing fresh groundwater discharge to continental coastlines: a multimodel comparison for the United States Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. Water Resour. Res. 54, 8363–8380 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. 71.

    Kim, G., Lee, K. K., Park, K. S., Hwang, D. W. & Yang, H. S. Large submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) from a volcanic island. Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 2098 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. 72.

    Chen, X. et al. Karstic submarine groundwater discharge into the Mediterranean: Radon-based nutrient fluxes in an anchialine cave and a basin-wide upscaling. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 268, 467–484 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. 73.

    Garcia-Solsona, E. et al. An assessment of karstic submarine groundwater and associated nutrient discharge to a Mediterranean coastal area (Balearic Islands, Spain) using radium isotopes. Biogeochemistry 97, 211–229 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. 74.

    Abbott, B. W. et al. Human domination of the global water cycle absent from depictions and perceptions. Nat. Geosci. 12, 533–540 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  75. 75.

    Rodellas, V. et al. Conceptual uncertainties in groundwater and porewater fluxes estimated by radon and radium mass balances. Limnol. Oceanogr. (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  76. 76.

    Sadat-Noori, M., Santos, I. R., Sanders, C. J., Sanders, L. M. & Maher, D. T. Groundwater discharge into an estuary using spatially distributed radon time series and radium isotopes. J. Hydrol. 528, 703–719 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  77. 77.

    Sadat-Noori, M., Santos, I. R., Tait, D. R., Reading, M. J. & Sanders, C. J. High porewater exchange in a mangrove-dominated estuary revealed from short-lived radium isotopes. J. Hydrol. 553, 188–198 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  78. 78.

    Weinstein, Y. et al. Role of aquifer heterogeneity in fresh groundwater discharge and seawater recycling: An example from the Carmel coast, Israel. J. Geophys. Res. 112, C12016 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  79. 79.

    Tamborski, J. et al. A comparison between water circulation and terrestrially-driven dissolved silica fluxes to the Mediterranean Sea traced using radium isotopes. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 238, 496–515 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  80. 80.

    Li, L., Barry, D. A., Stagnitti, F. & Parlange, J. Y. Submarine groundwater discharge and associated chemical input to a coastal sea. Water Resour. Res. 35, 3253–3259 (1999).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  81. 81.

    Lopez, C. V., Murgulet, D. & Santos, I. R. Radioactive and stable isotope measurements reveal saline submarine groundwater discharge in a semiarid estuary. J. Hydrol. 590, 125395 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  82. 82.

    Beck, M. et al. The drivers of biogeochemistry in beach ecosystems: A cross-shore transect from the dunes to the low-water line. Mar. Chem. 190, 35–50 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  83. 83.

    Billerbeck, M. et al. Surficial and deep pore water circulation governs spatial and temporal scales of nutrient recycling in intertidal sand flat sediment. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 326, 61–76 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  84. 84.

    Santos, I. R. et al. Porewater exchange as a driver of carbon dynamics across a terrestrial-marine transect: Insights from coupled 222Rn and pCO2 observations in the German Wadden Sea. Mar. Chem. 171, 10–20 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  85. 85.

    Charbonnier, C., Anschutz, P., Poirier, D., Bujan, S. & Lecroart, P. Aerobic respiration in a high-energy sandy beach. Mar. Chem. 155, 10–21 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  86. 86.

    Andrisoa, A., Stieglitz, T. C., Rodellas, V. & Raimbault, P. Primary production in coastal lagoons supported by groundwater discharge and porewater fluxes inferred from nitrogen and carbon isotope signatures. Mar. Chem. 210, 48–60 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  87. 87.

    Charette, M. A. & Sholkovitz, E. R. Oxidative precipitation of groundwater-derived ferrous iron in the subterranean estuary of a coastal bay. Geophys. Res. Lett. 29, 85-1–85-4 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  88. 88.

    Spiteri, C., Regnier, P., Slomp, C. P. & Charette, M. A. pH-Dependent iron oxide precipitation in a subterranean estuary. J. Geochem. Explor. 88, 399–403 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  89. 89.

    Spiteri, C., Slomp, C. P., Tuncay, K. & Meile, C. Modeling biogeochemical processes in subterranean estuaries: Effect of flow dynamics and redox conditions on submarine groundwater discharge of nutrients. Water Resour. Res. 44, W02430 (2008).

    Google Scholar 

  90. 90.

    Erler, D. V. et al. Nitrogen transformations within a tropical subterranean estuary. Mar. Chem. 164, 38–47 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  91. 91.

    Wadnerkar, P. D. et al. Significant nitrate attenuation in a mangrove-fringed estuary during a flood-chase experiment. Environ. Pollut. 253, 1000–1008 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  92. 92.

    Bernard, R. J. et al. Benthic nutrient fluxes and limited denitrification in a sub-tropical groundwater-influenced coastal lagoon. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 504, 13–26 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  93. 93.

    Cuthbert, M. O. et al. Global patterns and dynamics of climate–groundwater interactions. Nat. Clim. Change 9, 137–141 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  94. 94.

    Robinson, C., Gibbes, B. & Li, L. Driving mechanisms for groundwater flow and salt transport in a subterranean estuary. Geophys. Res. Lett. 33, L03402 (2006).

    Google Scholar 

  95. 95.

    Robinson, C., Gibbes, B., Carey, H. & Li, L. Salt-freshwater dynamics in a subterranean estuary over a spring-neap tidal cycle. J. Geophys. Res. Oceans 112, C09007 (2007).

    Google Scholar 

  96. 96.

    Robinson, C., Li, L. & Prommer, H. Tide-induced recirculation across the aquifer-ocean interface. Water Resour. Res. 43, W07428 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  97. 97.

    Xin, P. et al. Memory of past random wave conditions in submarine groundwater discharge. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 2401–2410 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  98. 98.

    Michael, H. A. et al. Geologic influence on groundwater salinity drives large seawater circulation through the continental shelf. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 10,782–10,791 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  99. 99.

    Xin, P., Jin, G. Q., Li, L. & Barry, D. A. Effects of crab burrows on pore water flows in salt marshes. Adv. Water Resour. 32, 439–449 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  100. 100.

    Xin, P., Yuan, L. R., Li, L. & Barry, D. A. Tidally driven multiscale pore water flow in a creek-marsh system. Water Resour. Res. 47, W07534 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  101. 101.

    Xiao, K. et al. Large CO2 release and tidal flushing in salt marsh crab burrows reduce the potential for blue carbon sequestration. Limnol. Oceanogr. 66, 14–29 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  102. 102.

    Stieglitz, T., Clark, J. F. & Hancock, G. J. The mangrove pump: The tidal flushing of animal burrows in a tropical mangrove forest determined from radionuclide budgets. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 102, 12–22 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  103. 103.

    Peterson, R. N., Burnett, W. C., Glenn, C. R. & Johnson, A. J. Quantification of point-source groundwater discharges to the ocean from the shoreline of the Big Island, Hawaii. Limnol. Oceanogr. 54, 890–904 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  104. 104.

    Dimova, N. T., Burnett, W. C. & Speer, K. A natural tracer investigation of the hydrological regime of Spring Creek Springs, the largest submarine spring system in Florida. Cont. Shelf Res. 31, 731–738 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  105. 105.

    Haitjema, H. M. & Mitchell-Bruker, S. Are water tables a subdued replica of the topography? Groundwater 43, 781–786 (2005).

    Google Scholar 

  106. 106.

    Michael, H. A., Russoniello, C. J. & Byron, L. A. Global assessment of vulnerability to sea-level rise in topography-limited and recharge-limited coastal groundwater systems. Water Resour. Res. 49, 2228–2240 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  107. 107.

    Zhang, Y., Li, L., Erler, D. V., Santos, I. & Lockington, D. Effects of alongshore morphology on groundwater flow and solute transport in a nearshore aquifer. Water Resour. Res. 52, 990–1008 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  108. 108.

    Zhang, Y., Li, L., Erler, D. V., Santos, I. & Lockington, D. Effects of beach slope breaks on nearshore groundwater dynamics. Hydrol. Process. 31, 2530–2540 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  109. 109.

    Xin, P., Kong, J., Li, L. & Barry, D. A. Effects of soil stratigraphy on pore-water flow in a creek-marsh system. J. Hydrol. 475, 175–187 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  110. 110.

    Krest, J. M., Moore, W. S. & Gardner, L. R. Marsh nutrient export supplied by groundwater discharge: Evidence from radium measurements. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 14, 167–176 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  111. 111.

    Chambers, R. M. & Odum, W. E. Porewater oxidation, dissolved phosphate and the iron curtain. Biogeochemistry 10, 37–52 (1990).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  112. 112.

    Santos, I. R., Burnett, W. C., Dittmar, T., Suryaputra, I. G. N. A. & Chanton, J. Tidal pumping drives nutrient and dissolved organic matter dynamics in a Gulf of Mexico subterranean estuary. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 73, 1325–1339 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  113. 113.

    Reckhardt, A. et al. Cycling of redox-sensitive elements in a sandy subterranean estuary of the southern North Sea. Mar. Chem. 188, 6–17 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  114. 114.

    Tovar-Sánchez, A. et al. Contribution of groundwater discharge to the coastal dissolved nutrients and trace metal concentrations in Majorca Island: karstic vs detrital systems. Environ. Sci. Technol. 48, 11819–11827 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  115. 115.

    Montiel, D. et al. Assessing submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) and nitrate fluxes in highly heterogeneous coastal karst aquifers: Challenges and solutions. J. Hydrol. 557, 222–242 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  116. 116.

    Kroeger, K. D., Swarzenski, P. W., Greenwood, W. J. & Reich, C. Submarine groundwater discharge to Tampa Bay: Nutrient fluxes and biogeochemistry of the coastal aquifer. Mar. Chem. 104, 85–97 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  117. 117.

    Montiel, D. et al. Natural groundwater nutrient fluxes exceed anthropogenic inputs in an ecologically impacted estuary: lessons learned from Mobile Bay, Alabama. Biogeochemistry 145, 1–33 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  118. 118.

    Santos, I. R., Eyre, B. D. & Huettel, M. The driving forces of porewater and groundwater flow in permeable coastal sediments: A review. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 98, 1–15 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  119. 119.

    Prieto, C. & Destouni, G. Is submarine groundwater discharge predictable? Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L01402 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  120. 120.

    Mulligan, A. E. & Charette, M. A. Intercomparison of submarine groundwater discharge estimates from a sandy unconfined aquifer. J. Hydrol. 327, 411–425 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  121. 121.

    Lecher, A. L. Groundwater discharge in the arctic: a review of studies and implications for biogeochemistry. Hydrology 4, 41 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  122. 122.

    Oberdorfer, J. A., Charette, M., Allen, M., Martin, J. B. & Cable, J. E. Hydrogeology and geochemistry of near-shore submarine groundwater discharge at Flamengo Bay, Ubatuba, Brazil. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 76, 457–465 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  123. 123.

    El-Gamal, A. A., Peterson, R. N. & Burnett, W. C. Detecting freshwater inputs via groundwater discharge to Marina Lagoon, Mediterranean Coast, Egypt. Estuaries Coasts 35, 1486–1499 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  124. 124.

    Petermann, E. et al. Coupling end-member mixing analysis and isotope mass balancing (222-Rn) for differentiation of fresh and recirculated submarine groundwater discharge into Knysna Estuary, South Africa. J. Geophys. Res. Oceans 123, 952–970 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  125. 125.

    Rahman, S., Tamborski, J. J., Charette, M. A. & Cochran, J. K. Dissolved silica in the subterranean estuary and the impact of submarine groundwater discharge on the global marine silica budget. Mar. Chem. 208, 29–42 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  126. 126.

    Rodellas, V., Garcia-Orellana, J., Masqué, P., Feldman, M. & Weinstein, Y. Submarine groundwater discharge as a major source of nutrients to the Mediterranean Sea. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 112, 3926–3930 (2015). A large-scale investigation revealing that SGD-derived nutrient fluxes exceed river inputs in the Mediterranean.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  127. 127.

    Richardson, C. M., Dulai, H. & Whittier, R. B. Sources and spatial variability of groundwater-delivered nutrients in Maunalua Bay, O‘ahu, Hawai’i. J. Hydrol. Reg. Stud. 11, 178–193 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  128. 128.

    Portnoy, J. W., Nowicki, B. L., Roman, C. T. & Urish, D. W. The discharge of nitrate-contaminated groundwater from developed shoreline to marsh-fringed estuary. Water Resour. Res. 34, 3095–3104 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  129. 129.

    Wang, G. et al. Net subterranean estuarine export fluxes of dissolved inorganic C, N, P, Si, and total alkalinity into the Jiulong River estuary, China. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 149, 103–114 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  130. 130.

    Valiela, I. et al. Transport of groundwater-borne nutrients from watersheds and their effects on coastal waters. Biogeochemistry 10, 177–197 (1990). Early demonstration that SGD is a key factor in coastal nutrient budgets.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  131. 131.

    Charette, M. A. & Sholkovitz, E. R. Trace element cycling in a subterranean estuary: Part 2. Geochemistry of the pore water. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 70, 811–826 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  132. 132.

    Porubsky, W. P., Weston, N. B., Moore, W. S., Ruppel, C. & Joye, S. B. Dynamics of submarine groundwater discharge and associated fluxes of dissolved nutrients, carbon, and trace gases to the coastal zone (Okatee River estuary, South Carolina). Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 131, 81–97 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  133. 133.

    Blanco, A. C. et al. Estimation of nearshore groundwater discharge and its potential effects on a fringing coral reef. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 62, 770–785 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  134. 134.

    Santos, I. R., Erler, D., Tait, D. & Eyre, B. D. Breathing of a coral cay: Tracing tidally driven seawater recirculation in permeable coral reef sediments. J. Geophys. Res. 115, C12010 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  135. 135.

    Kim, G., Ryu, J. W., Yang, H. S. & Yun, S. T. Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) into the Yellow Sea revealed by Ra-228 and Ra-226 isotopes: Implications for global silicate fluxes. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 237, 156–166 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  136. 136.

    Moore, W. S. The subterranean estuary: a reaction zone of groundwater and sea water. Mar. Chem. 65, 111–126 (1999). Defines the subterranean estuary as the mixing zone between fresh groundwater and recirculated seawater.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  137. 137.

    Duque, C., Michael, H. A. & Wilson, A. M. The subterranean estuary: technical term, simple analogy, or source of confusion? Water Resour. Res. 56, e2019WR026554 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  138. 138.

    Rocha, C. et al. A place for subterranean estuaries in the coastal zone. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 250, 107167 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  139. 139.

    Chen, X., Ye, Q., Sanders, C. J., Du, J. & Zhang, J. Bacterial-derived nutrient and carbon source-sink behaviors in a sandy beach subterranean estuary. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 160, 111570 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  140. 140.

    Wong, W. W., Applegate, A., Poh, S. C. & Cook, P. L. M. Biogeochemical attenuation of nitrate in a sandy subterranean estuary: Insights from two stable isotope approaches. Limnol. Oceanogr. 65, 3098–3113 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  141. 141.

    Santos, I. R., Bryan, K. R., Pilditch, C. A. & Tait, D. R. Influence of porewater exchange on nutrient dynamics in two New Zealand estuarine intertidal flats. Mar. Chem. 167, 57–70 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  142. 142.

    Sawyer, A. H. et al. Stratigraphic controls on fluid and solute fluxes across the sediment — water interface of an estuary. Limnol. Oceanogr. 59, 997–1010 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  143. 143.

    Stewart, B. T., Bryan, K. R., Pilditch, C. A. & Santos, I. R. Submarine groundwater discharge estimates using radium isotopes and related nutrient inputs into Tauranga Harbour (New Zealand). Estuar. Coasts 41, 384–403 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  144. 144.

    Wadnerkar, P. D. et al. Contrasting radium-derived groundwater exchange and nutrient lateral fluxes in a natural mangrove versus an artificial canal. Estuar. Coasts 44, 123–136 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  145. 145.

    Slomp, C. P. & Van Cappellen, P. Nutrient inputs to the coastal ocean through submarine groundwater discharge: controls and potential impact. J. Hydrol. 295, 64–86 (2004). A compilation of early SGD studies and conceptual insight into the drivers of nitrogen and phosphorus in coastal groundwater.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  146. 146.

    Santos, I. R. et al. Nutrient biogeochemistry in a Gulf of Mexico subterranean estuary and groundwater-derived fluxes to the coastal ocean. Limnol. Oceanogr. 53, 705–718 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  147. 147.

    Makings, U., Santos, I. R., Maher, D. T., Golsby-Smith, L. & Eyre, B. D. Importance of budgets for estimating the input of groundwater-derived nutrients to an eutrophic tidal river and estuary. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 143, 65–76 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  148. 148.

    Kroeger, K. D. & Charette, M. A. Nitrogen biogeochemistry of submarine groundwater discharge. Limnol. Oceanogr. 53, 1025–1039 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  149. 149.

    Glud, R. N. Oxygen dynamics of marine sediments. Mar. Biol. Res. 4, 243–289 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  150. 150.

    Kristensen, E. & Kostka, J. E. in Interactions Between Macro- and Microorganisms in Marine Sediments (eds Kristensen, E., Haese, R. R. & Kostka, J. E.) 125-157 (Wiley, 2005).

  151. 151.

    Bertics, V. J. et al. Burrowing deeper into benthic nitrogen cycling: the impact of bioturbation on nitrogen fixation coupled to sulfate reduction. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 409, 1–15 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  152. 152.

    Rao, A. M. F. & Charette, M. A. Benthic nitrogen fixation in an eutrophic estuary affected by groundwater discharge. J. Coast. Res. 28, 477–485 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  153. 153.

    Adyasari, D., Hassenrück, C., Montiel, D. & Dimova, N. Microbial community composition across a coastal hydrological system affected by submarine groundwater discharge (SGD). PLoS ONE 15, e0235235 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  154. 154.

    Decleyre, H., Heylen, K., Van Colen, C. & Willems, A. Dissimilatory nitrogen reduction in intertidal sediments of a temperate estuary: small scale heterogeneity and novel nitrate-to-ammonium reducers. Front. Microbiol. 6, 1124 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  155. 155.

    Zheng, Y. et al. Tidal pumping facilitates dissimilatory nitrate reduction in intertidal marshes. Sci. Rep. 6, 21338 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  156. 156.

    Santos, I. R., Eyre, B. D. & Glud, R. N. Influence of porewater advection on denitrification in carbonate sands: Evidence from repacked sediment column experiments. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 96, 247–258 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  157. 157.

    Erler, D. V., Santos, I. R. & Eyre, B. D. Inorganic nitrogen transformations within permeable carbonate sands. Cont. Shelf Res. 77, 69–80 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  158. 158.

    Gihring, T. M., Canion, A., Riggs, A., Huettel, M. & Kostka, J. E. Denitrification in shallow, sublittoral Gulf of Mexico permeable sediments. Limnol. Oceanogr. 55, 43–54 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  159. 159.

    Null, K. A. et al. Composition and fluxes of submarine groundwater along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cont. Shelf Res. 77, 38–50 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  160. 160.

    Knee, K. L., Street, J. H., Grossman, E. E., Boehm, A. B. & Paytan, A. Nutrient inputs to the coastal ocean from submarine groundwater discharge in a groundwater-dominated system: Relation to land use (Kona coast, Hawaii, USA). Limnol. Oceanogr. 55, 1105–1122 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  161. 161.

    Ptacnik, R., Andersen, T. & Tamminen, T. Performance of the Redfield ratio and a family of nutrient limitation indicators as thresholds for phytoplankton N vs. P limitation. Ecosystems 13, 1201–1214 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  162. 162.

    Seitzinger, S. et al. Denitrification across landscapes and waterscapes: a synthesis. Ecol. Appl. 16, 2064–2090 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  163. 163.

    Howarth, R. W. & Marino, R. Nitrogen as the limiting nutrient for eutrophication in coastal marine ecosystems: evolving views over three decades. Limnol. Oceanogr. 51, 364–376 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  164. 164.

    Kristiansen, S. & Hoell, E. E. The importance of silicon for marine production. Hydrobiologia 484, 21–31 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  165. 165.

    Spiteri, C., Slomp, C. P., Regnier, P., Meile, C. & Van Cappellen, P. Modelling the geochemical fate and transport of wastewater-derived phosphorus in contrasting groundwater systems. J. Contam. Hydrol. 92, 87–108 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  166. 166.

    Cable, J. E., Corbett, D. & Walsh, M. M. Phosphate uptake in coastal limestone aquifers: A fresh look at wastewater management. Limnol. Oceanogr. Bull. 11, 29–32 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  167. 167.

    Charette, M. A., Sholkovitz, E. R. & Hansel, C. M. Trace element cycling in a subterranean estuary: Part 1. Geochemistry of the permeable sediments. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 69, 2095–2109 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  168. 168.

    Roy, M., Martin, J. B., Cherrier, J., Cable, J. E. & Smith, C. G. Influence of sea level rise on iron diagenesis in an east Florida subterranean estuary. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 74, 5560–5573 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  169. 169.

    Puckett, L. J., Tesoriero, A. J. & Dubrovsky, N. M. Nitrogen contamination of surficial aquifers — A growing legacy. Environ. Sci. Technol. 45, 839–844 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  170. 170.

    Hansen, B., Thorling, L., Schullehner, J., Termansen, M. & Dalgaard, T. Groundwater nitrate response to sustainable nitrogen management. Sci. Rep. 7, 8566 (2017). Revealed an overall decrease of regional groundwater nitrate concentrations after implementation of agricultural nitrogen management.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  171. 171.

    Sutton, M. A. et al. The European Nitrogen Assessment: Sources, Effects and Policy Perspectives (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011).

  172. 172.

    Zhang, Y. et al. Submarine groundwater discharge drives coastal water quality and nutrient budgets at small and large scales. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 290, 201–215 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  173. 173.

    Viaroli, P. et al. Space and time variations of watershed N and P budgets and their relationships with reactive N and P loadings in a heavily impacted river basin (Po river, Northern Italy). Sci. Total Environ. 639, 1574–1587 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  174. 174.

    Dai, Z., Du, J., Zhang, X., Su, N. & Li, J. Variation of riverine material loads and environmental consequences on the Changjiang (Yangtze) Estuary in recent decades (1955–2008). Environ. Sci. Technol. 45, 223–227 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  175. 175.

    Chen, X., Wang, J., Cukrov, N. & Du, J. Porewater-derived nutrient fluxes in a coastal aquifer (Shengsi Island, China) and its implication. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 218, 204–211 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  176. 176.

    Kroeger, K. D., Cole, M. L. & Valiela, I. Groundwater-transported dissolved organic nitrogen exports from coastal watersheds. Limnol. Oceanogr. 51, 2248–2261 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  177. 177.

    Andersen, M. S. et al. Discharge of nitrate-containing groundwater into a coastal marine environment. J. Hydrol. 336, 98–114 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  178. 178.

    Knee, K. L., Layton, B. A., Street, J. H., Boehm, A. B. & Paytan, A. Sources of nutrients and fecal indicator bacteria to nearshore waters on the north shore of Kaua’i (Hawai’i, USA). Estuar. Coasts 31, 607–622 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  179. 179.

    Kim, T.-H., Kwon, E., Kim, I., Lee, S.-A. & Kim, G. Dissolved organic matter in the subterranean estuary of a volcanic island, Jeju: Importance of dissolved organic nitrogen fluxes to the ocean. J. Sea Res. 78, 18–24 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  180. 180.

    Sipler, R. E. & Bronk, D. A. in Biogeochemistry of Marine Dissolved Organic Matter 2nd edn (eds Hansell, D. A. & Carlson, C. A.) 127-232 (Academic, 2015).

  181. 181.

    Bowen, J. L. et al. A review of land–sea coupling by groundwater discharge of nitrogen to New England estuaries: Mechanisms and effects. Appl. Geochem. 22, 175–191 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  182. 182.

    Santos, I. R., de Weys, J., Tait, D. R. & Eyre, B. D. The contribution of groundwater discharge to nutrient exports from a coastal catchment: post-flood seepage increases estuarine N/P ratios. Estuar. Coasts 36, 56–73 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  183. 183.

    Wang, X. et al. Submarine groundwater discharge as an important nutrient source influencing nutrient structure in coastal water of Daya Bay, China. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 225, 52–65 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  184. 184.

    Fekete, B. M., Vörösmarty, C. J. & Grabs, W. High-resolution fields of global runoff combining observed river discharge and simulated water balances. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 16, 15-1–15-10 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  185. 185.

    Seitzinger, S. P. et al. Global river nutrient export: A scenario analysis of past and future trends. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 24, GB0A08 (2010).

    Google Scholar 

  186. 186.

    Tréguer, P. J. & Rocha, C. L. D. L. The world ocean silica cycle. Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci. 5, 477–501 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  187. 187.

    Beusen, A. H. W., Bouwman, A. F., Van Beek, L. P. H., Mogollón, J. M. & Middelburg, J. J. Global riverine N and P transport to ocean increased during the 20th century despite increased retention along the aquatic continuum. Biogeosciences 13, 2441–2451 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  188. 188.

    Boyer, E. W. et al. Riverine nitrogen export from the continents to the coasts. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 20, GB1S91 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  189. 189.

    Harrison, J. A., Caraco, N. & Seitzinger, S. P. Global patterns and sources of dissolved organic matter export to the coastal zone: Results from a spatially explicit, global model. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 19, GB4S04 (2005).

    Google Scholar 

  190. 190.

    Seitzinger, S. P., Harrison, J. A., Dumont, E., Beusen, A. H. W. & Bouwman, A. F. Sources and delivery of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus to the coastal zone: An overview of Global Nutrient Export from Watersheds (NEWS) models and their application. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 19, GB4S01 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  191. 191.

    Kwon, H. K., Kang, H., Oh, Y. H., Park, S. R. & Kim, G. Green tide development associated with submarine groundwater discharge in a coastal harbor, Jeju, Korea. Sci. Rep. 7, 6325 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  192. 192.

    Young, C., Tamborski, J. & Bokuniewicz, H. Embayment scale assessment of submarine groundwater discharge nutrient loading and associated land use. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 158, 20–30 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  193. 193.

    Beusen, A. H. W., Slomp, C. P. & Bouwman, A. F. Global land–ocean linkage: direct inputs of nitrogen to coastal waters via submarine groundwater discharge. Environ. Res. Lett. 8, 034035 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  194. 194.

    Adyasari, D., Oehler, T., Afiati, N. & Moosdorf, N. Groundwater nutrient inputs into an urbanized tropical estuary system in Indonesia. Sci. Total Environ. 627, 1066–1079 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  195. 195.

    Trezzi, G. et al. Submarine groundwater discharge: a significant source of dissolved trace metals to the North Western Mediterranean Sea. Mar. Chem. 186, 90–100 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  196. 196.

    Michael, H. A., Mulligan, A. E. & Harvey, C. F. Seasonal oscillations in water exchange between aquifers and the coastal ocean. Nature 436, 1145–1148 (2005). Landmark modelling investigation demonstrating a new, widespread mechanism for saline SGD.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  197. 197.

    Smith, C. G., Cable, J. E., Martin, J. B. & Roy, M. Evaluating the source and seasonality of submarine groundwater discharge using a radon-222 pore water transport model. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 273, 312–322 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  198. 198.

    Boyer, E. W. & Howarth, R. W. in Nitrogen in the Marine Environment (eds Capone, D., Bronk, D., Mulholland, M. & Carpenter, E.) 1565-1587 (Elsevier, 2008).

  199. 199.

    Rabalais, N. N. et al. Dynamics and distribution of natural and human-caused hypoxia. Biogeosciences 7, 585–619 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  200. 200.

    Valiela, I., Bowen, J. L. & Kroeger, K. D. Assessment of models for estimation of land-derived nitrogen loads to estuaries. Appl. Geochem. 19, 935–953 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  201. 201.

    Green, P. A. et al. Pre-industrial and contemporary fluxes of nitrogen through rivers: a global assessment based on typology. Biogeochemistry 68, 71–105 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  202. 202.

    Tait, D. R. et al. The influence of groundwater inputs and age on nutrient dynamics in a coral reef lagoon. Mar. Chem. 166, 36–47 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  203. 203.

    McDonough, L. et al. Changes in global groundwater organic carbon driven by climate change and urbanization. Nat. Commun. 11, 1279 (2020). Revealed that groundwater quality will decrease with climate and land-use change.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  204. 204.

    Lecher, A. & Mackey, K. Synthesizing the effects of submarine groundwater discharge on marine biota. Hydrology 5, 60 (2018). The first review of biological effects of SGD in multiple coastal ecosystems.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  205. 205.

    Waska, H. & Kim, G. Differences in microphytobenthos and macrofaunal abundances associated with groundwater discharge in the intertidal zone. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 407, 159–172 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  206. 206.

    Taylor, G. T., Gobler, C. J. & Sañudo-Wilhelmy, S. A. Speciation and concentrations of dissolved nitrogen as determinants of brown tide Aureococcus anophagefferens bloom initiation. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 312, 67–83 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  207. 207.

    Hwang, D. W., Lee, Y. W. & Kim, G. Large submarine groundwater discharge and benthic eutrophication in Bangdu Bay on volcanic Jeju Island, Korea. Limnol. Oceanogr. 50, 1393–1403 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  208. 208.

    Lecher, A. L., Mackey, K. R. M. & Paytan, A. River and submarine groundwater discharge effects on diatom phytoplankton abundance in the Gulf of Alaska. Hydrology 4, 61 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  209. 209.

    Adolf, J. E., Burns, J., Walker, J. K. & Gamiao, S. Near shore distributions of phytoplankton and bacteria in relation to submarine groundwater discharge-fed fishponds, Kona coast, Hawai’i, USA. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 219, 341–353 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  210. 210.

    Lee, Y. W. & Kim, G. Linking groundwater-borne nutrients and dinoflagellate red-tide outbreaks in the southern sea of Korea using a Ra tracer. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 71, 309–317 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  211. 211.

    Lee, Y. W., Kim, G., Lim, W. A. & Hwang, D. W. A relationship between submarine groundwater-borne nutrients traced by Ra isotopes and the intensity of dinoflagellate red-tides occurring in the southern sea of Korea. Limnol. Oceanogr. 55, 1–10 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  212. 212.

    Cho, H.-M., Kim, G. & Shin, K.-H. Tracing nitrogen sources fueling coastal green tides off a volcanic island using radon and nitrogen isotopic tracers. Sci. Total Environ. 665, 913–919 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  213. 213.

    Hu, C., Muller-Karger, F. E. & Swarzenski, P. W. Hurricanes, submarine groundwater discharge, and Florida’s red tides. Geophys. Res. Lett. 33, L11601 (2006).

    Google Scholar 

  214. 214.

    Sugimoto, R. et al. Phytoplankton primary productivity around submarine groundwater discharge in nearshore coasts. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 563, 25–33 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  215. 215.

    Amato, D. W., Bishop, J. M., Glenn, C. R., Dulai, H. & Smith, C. M. Impact of submarine groundwater discharge on marine water quality and reef biota of Maui. PLoS ONE 11, e0165825 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  216. 216.

    Peterson, B. J., Stubler, A. D., Wall, C. C. & Gobler, C. J. Nitrogen-rich groundwater intrusion affects productivity, but not herbivory, of the tropical seagrass Thalassia testudinum. Aquat. Biol. 15, 1–9 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  217. 217.

    Darnell, K. M. & Dunton, K. H. Plasticity in turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) flower production as a response to porewater nitrogen availability. Aquat. Botany 138, 100–106 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  218. 218.

    Short, F. T. & Burdick, D. M. Quantifying eelgrass habitat loss in relation to housing development and nitrogen loading in Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts. Estuaries 19, 730–739 (1996).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  219. 219.

    McManus, J. W. & Polsenberg, J. F. Coral–algal phase shifts on coral reefs: Ecological and environmental aspects. Prog. Oceanogr. 60, 263–279 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  220. 220.

    Davis, K. L., McMahon, A., Kelaher, B., Shaw, E. & Santos, I. R. Fifty years of sporadic coral reef calcification estimates at One Tree Island, Great Barrier Reef: Is it enough to imply long term trends? Front. Mar. Sci. 6, 282 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  221. 221.

    Chauvin, A., Denis, V. & Cuet, P. Is the response of coral calcification to seawater acidification related to nutrient loading? Coral Reefs 30, 911 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  222. 222.

    Prouty, N. G. et al. Carbonate system parameters of an algal-dominated reef along West Maui. Biogeosciences 15, 2467–2480 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  223. 223.

    Crook, E. D., Cohen, A. L., Rebolledo-Vieyra, M., Hernandez, L. & Paytan, A. Reduced calcification and lack of acclimatization by coral colonies growing in areas of persistent natural acidification. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, 11044–11049 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  224. 224.

    Oberle, F. K. J. et al. Physicochemical controls on zones of higher coral stress where black band disease occurs at Mākua Reef, Kaua’i, Hawai’i. Front. Mar. Sci. 6, 552 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  225. 225.

    Richardson, C. M., Dulai, H., Popp, B. N., Ruttenberg, K. & Fackrell, J. K. Submarine groundwater discharge drives biogeochemistry in two Hawaiian reefs. Limnol. Oceanogr. 62, S348–S363 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  226. 226.

    Andrisoa, A., Lartaud, F., Rodellas, V., Neveu, I. & Stieglitz, T. C. Enhanced growth rates of the Mediterranean mussel in a coastal lagoon driven by groundwater inflow. Front. Mar. Sci. 6, 753 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  227. 227.

    Spalt, N., Murgulet, D. & Abdulla, H. Spatial variation and availability of nutrients at an oyster reef in relation to submarine groundwater discharge. Sci. Total Environ. 710, 136283 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  228. 228.

    Chen, X. et al. Submarine groundwater-borne nutrients in a tropical bay (Maowei Sea, China) and their impacts on the oyster aquaculture. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 19, 932–951 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  229. 229.

    Fujita, K. et al. Increase in fish production through bottom-up trophic linkage in coastal waters induced by nutrients supplied via submarine groundwater. Front. Environ. Sci. 7, 82 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  230. 230.

    Starke, C., Ekau, W. & Moosdorf, N. Enhanced productivity and fish abundance at a submarine spring in a coastal lagoon on Tahiti, French Polynesia. Front. Mar. Sci. 6, 809 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  231. 231.

    Pisternick, T. et al. Submarine groundwater springs are characterized by distinct fish communities. Mar. Ecol. 41, e12610 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  232. 232.

    Moosdorf, N. & Oehler, T. Societal use of fresh submarine groundwater discharge: An overlooked water resource. Earth Sci. Rev. 171, 338–348 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  233. 233.

    Troccoli-Ghinaglia, L., Herrera-Silveira, J. A., Comín, F. A. & Díaz-Ramos, J. R. Phytoplankton community variations in tropical coastal area affected where submarine groundwater occurs. Cont. Shelf Res. 30, 2082–2091 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  234. 234.

    Utsunomiya, T. et al. Higher species richness and abundance of fish and benthic invertebrates around submarine groundwater discharge in Obama Bay, Japan. J. Hydrol. Reg. Stud. 11, 139–146 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  235. 235.

    Migné, A., Ouisse, V., Hubas, C. & Davoult, D. Freshwater seepages and ephemeral macroalgae proliferation in an intertidal bay: II. Effect on benthic biomass and metabolism. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 92, 161–168 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  236. 236.

    Valiela, I. et al. Couplings of watersheds and coastal waters: Sources and consequences of nutrient enrichment in Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts. Estuaries 15, 443–457 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  237. 237.

    Peterson, R. N. et al. A new perspective on coastal hypoxia: The role of saline groundwater. Mar. Chem. 179, 1–11 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  238. 238.

    Lilkendey, J. et al. Fresh submarine groundwater discharge augments growth in a reef fish. Front. Mar. Sci. 6, 613 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  239. 239.

    Stewart, B. T., Santos, I. R., Tait, D., Macklin, P. A. & Maher, D. T. Submarine groundwater discharge and associated fluxes of alkalinity and dissolved carbon into Moreton Bay (Australia) estimated via radium isotopes. Mar. Chem. 174, 1–12 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  240. 240.

    Liu, Y. et al. Inorganic carbon and alkalinity biogeochemistry and fluxes in an intertidal beach aquifer: implications for ocean acidification. J. Hydrol. 595, 126036 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  241. 241.

    Santos, I. R., Maher, D. T., Larkin, R., Webb, J. R. & Sanders, C. J. Carbon outwelling and outgassing vs. burial in an estuarine tidal creek surrounded by mangrove and saltmarsh wetlands. Limnol. Oceanogr. 64, 996–1013 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  242. 242.

    Sippo, J. Z. et al. Carbon outwelling across the shelf following a massive mangrove dieback in Australia: Insights from radium isotopes. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 253, 142–158 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  243. 243.

    Cyronak, T., Santos, I. R., Erler, D. V. & Eyre, B. D. Groundwater and porewater as major sources of alkalinity to a fringing coral reef lagoon (Muri Lagoon, Cook Islands). Biogeosciences 10, 2467–2480 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  244. 244.

    Lee, J. & Kim, G. Dependence of coastal water pH increases on submarine groundwater discharge off a volcanic island. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 163, 15–21 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  245. 245.

    Davis, K., Santos, I. R., Perkins, A. K., Webb, J. R. & Gleeson, J. Altered groundwater discharge and associated carbon fluxes in a wetland-drained coastal canal. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 235, 106567 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  246. 246.

    O’Reilly, C., Santos, I. R., Cyronak, T., McMahon, A. & Maher, D. T. Nitrous oxide and methane dynamics in a coral reef lagoon driven by pore water exchange: Insights from automated high-frequency observations. Geophys. Res. Lett. 42, 2885–2892 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  247. 247.

    de Weys, J., Santos, I. R. & Eyre, B. D. Linking groundwater discharge to severe estuarine acidification during a flood in a modified wetland. Environ. Sci. Technol. 45, 3310–3316 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  248. 248.

    Jeffrey, L. C., Maher, D. T., Santos, I. R., McMahon, A. & Tait, D. R. Groundwater, acid and carbon dioxide dynamics along a coastal wetland, lake and estuary continuum. Estuar. Coasts 39, 1325–1344 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  249. 249.

    Santos, I. R. et al. Assessing the recharge of a coastal aquifer using physical observations, tritium, groundwater chemistry and modelling. Sci. Total Environ. 580, 367–379 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  250. 250.

    Post, V. E. A., Eichholz, M. & Brentführer, R. Groundwater Management in Coastal Zones (Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR), 2018).

  251. 251.

    Ferreira, J. G. et al. Overview of eutrophication indicators to assess environmental status within the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 93, 117–131 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  252. 252.

    EU. Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for community action in the field of water policy (Official Journal of the European Communities, 2000).

  253. 253.

    EU. Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (Marine Strategy Framework Directive) (Official Journal of the European Union, 2008).

  254. 254.

    Glenn, C. R. et al. Lahaina groundwater tracer study–Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, 502 pp (Univ. Hawaii at Mana, 2013).

  255. 255.

    Cornwall, W. ‘Hydrologists should be happy.’ Big Supreme Court ruling bolsters groundwater science. Science (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  256. 256.

    Strain, D. Groundwater discharge of wastewater contaminants across the land-sea interface: Law, policy, and science research aimed to improve coastal management (Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, 2020).

  257. 257.

    Boehm, A. B., Shellenbarger, G. G. & Paytan, A. Groundwater discharge:  potential association with fecal indicator bacteria in the surf zone. Environ. Sci. Technol. 38, 3558–3566 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  258. 258.

    Gilli, E. Deep speleological salt contamination in Mediterranean karst aquifers: perspectives for water supply. Environ. Earth Sci. 74, 101–113 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  259. 259.

    Ishida, S., Tsuchihara, T., Yoshimoto, S. & Imaizumi, M. Sustainable use of groundwater with underground dams. Jpn. Agric. Res. Q. 45, 51–61 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  260. 260.

    Macklin, P. A., Maher, D. T. & Santos, I. R. Estuarine canal estate waters: Hotspots of CO2 outgassing driven by enhanced groundwater discharge? Mar. Chem. 167, 82–92 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  261. 261.

    Senal, M. I. S. et al. Nutrient inputs from submarine groundwater discharge on the Santiago reef flat, Bolinao, Northwestern Philippines. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 63, 195–200 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  262. 262.

    Guillotreau, P., Campling, L. & Robinson, J. Vulnerability of small island fishery economies to climate and institutional changes. Curr. Opin. Environ. Sust. 4, 287–291 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  263. 263.

    Bishop, R. E. et al. ‘Anchialine’ redefined as a subterranean estuary in a crevicular or cavernous geological setting. J. Crust. Biol. 35, 511–514 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  264. 264.

    Chen, X. et al. Submarine groundwater discharge-derived carbon fluxes in mangroves: an important component of blue carbon budgets? J. Geophys. Res. Oceans 123, 6962–6979 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  265. 265.

    Rabalais, N. N., Turner, R. E., Díaz, R. J. & Justić, D. Global change and eutrophication of coastal waters. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 66, 1528–1537 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  266. 266.

    Heiss, J. W., Post, V. E. A., Laattoe, T., Russoniello, C. J. & Michael, H. A. Physical controls on biogeochemical processes in intertidal zones of beach aquifers. Water Resour. Res. 53, 9225–9244 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  267. 267.

    Bokuniewicz, H., Buddemeier, R., Maxwell, B. & Smith, C. The typological approach to submarine groundwater discharge (SGD). Biogeochemistry 66, 145–158 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This Review was initiated with support from the Australian Research Council (FT170100327) and concluded with support from the Swedish Research Council to I.R.S. H.-M.C. was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (2020R1F1A1071423) and Inha University Research Grant (2020). X.C. acknowledges the National Natural Science Foundation of China (42006152). N.D. was supported by a University of Alabama sabbatical fellowship. V.R. acknowledges the Beatriu de Pinós postdoctoral programme of the Catalan Government (2017-BP-00334). H.L. acknowledges the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41972260, 41430641). R.S. acknowledges the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (18KK0428). S.B. was supported by the Swedish Research Council Formas (2017-01513). A.H.S. acknowledges the National Science Foundation (NSF EAR-1752995).

Author information




I.R.S. conceived the paper with input from all authors and wrote several passages. X.C. did most of the data compilation with support from all authors. A.L.L. and R.S. wrote most of the biological implications section. A.H.S. wrote about scales of SGD and made global maps. N.D. wrote about methods of SGD. N.M. and H.L. wrote most of the societal implications section. V.R. and J.T. wrote some of the river versus SGD and global distribution sections. H.-M.C. wrote some of the nitrogen speciation section. M.-C.H. and L.L. performed some of the data analysis. S.B. wrote about nitrogen cycling. All authors edited the manuscript and contributed to general discussions and literature reviews.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Isaac R. Santos.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information

Nature Reviews Earth & Environment thanks A. Wilson and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information


Submarine groundwater discharge

The flow of water through continental margins from the seabed to the coastal ocean, with length scales of metres to kilometres, regardless of fluid composition or driving force.


A measure of the ability of unconsolidated rocks and sediments to allow groundwater flow.

Hydraulic heads

Vertical and horizontal pressure gradients driving groundwater flow.

Biogenic silica

Mineral containing silicon often produced by plankton (such as diatoms and radiolarians) and often well preserved during sedimentation and burial.


Microbial process in the nitrogen cycle that converts nitrate to nitrogen gas that flows to the atmosphere.


Landscape formed by carbonate rocks often weathered by dissolution and with abundant conduits for fast groundwater flow.

Unconfined aquifers

Surficial aquifers situated above a low-permeability layer of sediment or rock, and with the upper water layer at atmospheric pressure.

Oxidation-reduction potential

Measure of the tendency of a chemical species to acquire electrons, to be reduced or to lose electrons, or to be oxidized.

Subterranean estuaries

The locations in coastal aquifers where there is mixing between fresh groundwater and seawater, and chemical reactions modify the composition of submarine groundwater discharge.

Nitrogen fixation

Microbial process that leads to the conversion of nitrogen gas into ammonia/ammonium.

Dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium

Microbial process in the nitrogen cycle that converts fixed nitrogen from nitrate to ammonium.


Microscopic algae (unicellular and non-flagellate) with a characteristic wall made up of silica and are one of the most important groups of planktonic marine microalgae.


Group of microscopic algae (mostly unicellular and flagellate) representing one of the most important groups of both marine and freshwater phytoplankton.


The quantity of water that moves to the atmosphere from the plants and soil; describes the joint effect of transpiration, through the plants, and evaporation, directly from the soil.


Living organisms, such as unicellular eukaryotic algae (mainly diatoms) and cyanobacteria, growing in the upper layers of illuminated aquatic sediments.


Ubiquitous phylum of single-celled bacteria that carry out photosynthesis.


Large aquatic plants and multicellular algae widespread in marine, brackish and freshwater environments, which are referred to as macrophytes to distinguish from unicellular algae (phytoplankton).

Acid sulfate soils

Naturally occurring soils usually found in coastal wetlands with a high content of iron sulfide minerals, such as pyrite; when disturbed by dredging or drainage, the soils come into contact with oxygen, oxidizing pyrite and releasing sulfuric acid (H2SO4).

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Santos, I.R., Chen, X., Lecher, A.L. et al. Submarine groundwater discharge impacts on coastal nutrient biogeochemistry. Nat Rev Earth Environ (2021).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing