Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems

Coral proxy record of decadal-scale reduction in base flow from Moloka'i, Hawaii



[1] Groundwater is a major resource in Hawaii and is the principal source of water for municipal, agricultural, and industrial use. With a growing population, a long-term downward trend in rainfall, and the need for proper groundwater management, a better understanding of the hydroclimatological system is essential. Proxy records from corals can supplement long-term observational networks, offering an accessible source of hydrologic and climate information. To develop a qualitative proxy for historic groundwater discharge to coastal waters, a suite of rare earth elements and yttrium (REYs) were analyzed from coral cores collected along the south shore of Moloka'i, Hawaii. The coral REY to calcium (Ca) ratios were evaluated against hydrological parameters, yielding the strongest relationship to base flow. Dissolution of REYs from labradorite and olivine in the basaltic rock aquifers is likely the primary source of coastal ocean REYs. There was a statistically significant downward trend (−40%) in subannually resolved REY/Ca ratios over the last century. This is consistent with long-term records of stream discharge from Moloka'i, which imply a downward trend in base flow since 1913. A decrease in base flow is observed statewide, consistent with the long-term downward trend in annual rainfall over much of the state. With greater demands on freshwater resources, it is appropriate for withdrawal scenarios to consider long-term trends and short-term climate variability. It is possible that coral paleohydrological records can be used to conduct model-data comparisons in groundwater flow models used to simulate changes in groundwater level and coastal discharge.