Assessing the Impact of Groundwater Pollution from Marine Caves on Nearshore Seagrass Beds in Bermuda
MetadataShow full item record
This investigation characterized karstic and nearshore environments of Bermuda to describe 1) behavior and periodicity of cave springs; 2) submarine spring water quality; and 3) nearshore marine seagrass density. Caves can be conduits for groundwater pollution where terrestrial anthropogenic processes leach nutrient enriched water into marine caves springs that flow directly into coastal waters. Seagrass may serve as an environmental indicator due to its susceptibility to anthropogenic pollution. In 2007, environmental water monitoring devices were moored at the entrance of coastal cave springs throughout Bermuda to retrieve data on water quality, flow volume, velocity and direction. Nutrients (nitrate, phosphate, nitrite, and ammonium) and fecal bacteria (Enterococcus spp. and Escherichia coli) were measured in each cave. To qualify a link between terrestrial pollution and the nearshore environment, seagrass density within 100 m from cave entrances were measured. Bermuda caves were tidally influenced. Caves in Harrington Sound showed a delayed tidal flux with smaller ranges due to the restricted tidal inlet. Four caves exhibited a 1:1 in:out flow ratio. Caves with an imbalance flow ratio could be influenced by additional entrances, connection to an alternate water body, or cave geometry. Cave water was similar between caves. Environmental parameters and nutrients changed together, excluding seasonal variations in temperature (17.89 to 22.94 degrees C). Higher nutrients and fecal coliforms within caves indicated sewage may be leaching into the subsurface ground water system. Three seagrass species were evenly distributed within patchy meadows. Densities ranged from 0.91 to 4.5 (on a Braun-Blanket Scale). Higher mean densities in Harrington Sound, suggested the enclosed, protected nature of the sound allowed for reduced wave and current action. Syringodium filiforme decreased in density towards the ocean signifying a direct influence of cave water on seagrass beds. Tidal in and out-flux allowed for a constantly changing environment suitable for a mixture of seagrass species. Higher dissolved inorganic nutrient concentrations were associated with locations lacking seagrass. This study found 1) cave springs connected groundwater and nearshore seagrass ecosystems; and 2) components associated with terrestrial sewage pollution (DIN, HPO4=, and Enterococcus spp.) were higher within caves than nearshore waters.
Cate, Jenipher R. (2009). Assessing the Impact of Groundwater Pollution from Marine Caves on Nearshore Seagrass Beds in Bermuda. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from