A Comparison of Controls on Freshwater Lens Morphology of Small Carbonate and Siliciclastic Islands: Examples from Barrier Islands in Florida, USA

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island hydrogeology, freshwater lens, barrier islands, electromagnetic surveys

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The freshwater lens on small islands may easily be overexploited or polluted due to dense development combined with improper management. On small carbonate islands complexities in fresh groundwater distribution are most commonly driven by geologic heterogeneities and their attendant impact on permeability and effective recharge patterns. Siliciclastic islands (composed primarily of quartz sand and other silica-based minerals) have been less well studied, and fewer common patterns of lens development have emerged. On some siliciclastic islands correlations between geology and lens geometries are weak; on these islands the freshwater lens geometry may be largely determined by how vegetation and terrain elevation affect recharge. Other factors such as unequal sea level on opposite sides of an island and transient variability (natural island migration and climate variability) may also be locally significant. Two barrier islands in the northeast Gulf of Mexico fall into this category of siliciclastic islands. Relationships between lens morphology, geology, vegetation, terrain, and sea level and transient effects are documented on St George Island and Dog Island, FL. Patterns of fresh groundwater occurrence are deduced with electrical and electromagnetic geophysical methods. Although isolated cores show geologic layering that could potentially control freshwater lens development, ground penetrating radar and seismic surveys show no evidence of semi-continuous subhorizontal layering. Inferred lens thickness and geometry suggests that site geology plays a relatively minor role as a cause of complexity in lens formation. Lens geometry does appear to be related to terrain and vegetation variability, and further complicated by the continuous reforming of these islands by coastal processes and human development.

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Journal of Hydrology, v. 284, issues 1-4, p. 253-269