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Groundwater Dynamics of Fongafale Islet, Funafuti Atoll, Tuvalu

Authors

  • Satoshi Nakada,

    Corresponding author
    1. Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN), 457-4 Motoyama, Kamigamo, Kita-ku, Kyoto, 603-8047 Japan.
    • Department of Geophysics, Division of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Kyoto University, Kitashirakawa-Oiwake Cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan; (+81) 75-753-3922; fax: (+81) 75-753-3928; snakada@kugi.kyoto-u.ac.jp

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  • Yu Umezawa,

    1. Faculty of Fisheries, Nagasaki University, 1-14 Bunkyo, Nagasaki 852-8521, Japan.
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  • Makoto Taniguchi,

    1. Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN), 457-4 Motoyama, Kamigamo, Kita-ku, Kyoto, 603-8047 Japan.
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  • Hiroya Yamano

    1. Center for Environmental Biology and Ecosystem Studies, National Institute for Environmental Studies, 16-2 Onogawa, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8506, Japan.
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Abstract

Geoelectric and hydrologic surveys during spring tides revealed the spatiotemporal distribution of groundwater quality produced by tidal forcing in Fongafale Islet, Funafuti Atoll, Tuvalu. The observed low resistivity showed that saline water largely immersed the surficial Holocene aquifer, indicating that there is no thick freshwater lens in Fongafale Islet, unlike in other atoll islands of comparable size. Half of the islet was constructed by reclaiming the original swamp with porous, highly permeable coral blocks; this reclaimed area should not be considered as part of the islet width for calculation of the expected thickness of the freshwater lens. The degree of aquifer salinization depends on the topographic characteristics and the hydrologic controls on the inland propagation of the tidal forcing. Large changes in bulk resistivity and the electrical conductivity of groundwater from wells indicate that periodic salinization in phase with the semidiurnal tides was occurring widely, especially in areas at lower elevation than the high-tide level and in reclaimed areas with high permeability. Thin sheets of nearly fresh and brackish water were observed in the surficial aquifer in areas above the high-tide level and in taro swamps, respectively. The thinness of the brackish and freshwater sheets suggests that the taro swamps and the fresh groundwater resources of the islet are highly vulnerable to salinization from anticipated sea-level rise. An understanding of the inherent geologic and topographic features of an atoll is necessary to evaluate the groundwater resources of the atoll and assess the vulnerability of its water resources to climate change.

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