The influence of microbial activity and sedimentary organic carbon on the isotope geochemistry of the Middendorf Aquifer

Ellyn M. Murphy, Janet A. Schramke, James K. Fredrickson, Horace W. Bledsoe, A. J. Francis, Deborah S. Sklarew, John Linehan

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Microorganisms present in deep Atlantic coastal plain sediments affect the geochemical evolution of groundwater and its chemical and isotopic composition, yet the factors controlling their origin, distribution, and diversity are poorly understood. The evolution of the groundwater chemistry, the fractionation of stable carbon isotopes, and the groundwater age are all indicators of the inorganic and microbial reactions occurring along a given flow path from groundwater recharge to groundwater discharge. In this study, tritium, 14C, and groundwater chemistry along three flow paths of the Middendorf aquifer in South Carolina were analyzed. The 14C ranged from 89 percent modern carbon (pmC) in the recharge zone to 9.9 pmC in the distal borehole; the δ13C remained relatively constant at ∼−22‰, suggesting microbial oxidation of organic carbon. Carbon isotope analyses of particulate organic carbon from core sediments and groundwater chemistry were used to model the carbon chemistry; the groundwater ages obtained from 14C ranged from modern to 11,500 years B.P. The highest frequencies of occurrence, numbers, and diversity of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria were found in boreholes near the recharge zone where the calculated ages were

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-740
Number of pages18
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1992


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Aquatic Science

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