Extending Electromagnetic Methods to Map Coastal Pore Water Salinities

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The feasibility of mapping pore water salinity based on surface electromagnetic (EM) methods over land and shallow marine water is examined in a coastal wetland on Tampa Bay, Florida. Forward models predict that useful information on seabed conductivity can be obtained through <1.5 m of saline water, using floating EM-31 and EM-34 instruments from Geonics Ltd. The EM-31 functioned as predicted when compared against resistivity soundings and pore water samples and proved valuable for profiling in otherwise inaccessible terrain due to its relatively small size. Experiments with the EM-34 in marine water, however, did not reproduce the theoretical instrument response. The most effective technique for predicting pore water conductivities based on EM data entailed (1) computing formation factors from resistivity surveys and pore water samples at representative sites and (2) combining these formation factors with onshore and offshore EM-31 readings for broader spatial coverage. This method proved successful for imaging zones of elevated pore water conductivities/salinities associated with mangrove forests, presumably caused by salt water exclusion by mangrove roots. These zones extend 5 to 10 m seaward from mangrove trunks fringing Tampa Bay. Modeling indicates that EM-31 measurements lack the resolution necessary to image the subtle pore water conductivity variations expected in association with diffuse submarine ground water discharge of fresher water in the marine water of Tampa Bay. The technique has potential for locating high-contrast zones and other pore water salinity anomalies in areas not accessible to conventional marine- or land-based resistivity arrays and hence may be useful for studies of coastal-wetland ecosystems.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Groundwater, v. 44, issue 2, p. 292-299