The flow of fresh groundwater and solutes to the world’s oceans and coastal ecosystems

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Elco Luijendijk , Tom Gleeson, Nils Moosdorf


The flow of fresh groundwater towards the world oceans may provide substantial inputs of nutrients and solutes to the oceans. Here we present a spatially resolved global model of coastal groundwater discharge to show that the contribution of fresh groundwater is lower than most previous estimates and accounts for only ~0.6% of the freshwater input and ~2% of the solute input to the oceans. However, the coastal discharge of fresh groundwater displays a high spatial variability and for an estimated 20% of the world’s estuaries, salt marshes and coral reefs the flux of terrestrial groundwater is high enough to pose a risk for pollution and eutrophication. Coastal groundwater discharge constitutes a diffuse and largely unmonitored source of nutrients which given the slow rates of groundwater flow may continue to pose a pollution risk for vulnerable coastal ecosystems long after sources of pollution have been addressed.



Earth Sciences, Hydrology, Oceanography, Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


groundwater, submarine groundwater discharge, eutrophication


Published: 2019-03-31 06:21

Last Updated: 2019-10-04 05:21

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GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) 2.1