Exonerating Bernoulli? On evaluating the physical and biological processes affecting marine seepage meter measurements

Jaye E. Cable, Jonathan B. MartinJohn Jaeger

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 4:172-183 (2006) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2006.4.172

ABSTRACT: Seepage meters, like most benthic flux chamber techniques, come with inherent concerns about how their presence may alter the environment and flow regimen of the benthic boundary layer and underlying sediments. Flow due to wave and current movement across topographic features induces a downward and upward flow field within the sediments surrounding the feature. We found this Bernoulli-induced flow is a real, but maybe minor, component of measured advection using seepage meters. This study was conducted in a Florida coastal lagoon to test the physical forcing mechanisms that may influence seepage measurements from sediments. Calculated Bernoulli seepage was within the measured background (~1 to 2 cm day–1) expected from seepage meters when a plastic barrier beneath the device is used to inhibit natural seepage contributions. Nearby seepage measurements made with Lee-type seepage meters placed directly in the sediments ranged from 1 to 12 cm day–1. Thus, when seepage flow is very slow from sediments, Bernoulli-induced seepage may obscure the measurement. However, this study demonstrates that seepage in the Indian River Lagoon must be driven by forces other than Bernoulli-induced (pumped) flow. Suggestions for these forcing mechanisms highlight the uncertainty of the water source(s) in seepage measurements. In these Florida lagoon sediments, bioirrigation and terrestrial groundwater inputs are the most likely drivers, depending on distance from shore, benthic community composition, and continental recharge. Seepage measurements can be an excellent measure of advection in shallow-water marine sediments if Bernoulli-induced seepage is taken into account either experimentally or calculated based on local hydrographic and meteorological data.