Redox zonation and organic matter oxidation in palaeogroundwater of glacial origin from the Baltic Artesian Basin

Pärn, Joonas; Affolter, Stéphane; Ivask, Jüri; Johnson, Sean; Kirsimäe, Kalle; Leuenberger, Markus; Martma, Tõnu; Raidla, Valle; Schloemer, Stefan; Sepp, Holar; Vaikmäe, Rein; Walraevens, Kristine (2018). Redox zonation and organic matter oxidation in palaeogroundwater of glacial origin from the Baltic Artesian Basin. Chemical geology, 488, pp. 149-161. Elsevier 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2018.04.027

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Ordovician-Cambrian aquifer system (O-Cm) in the northern part of the Baltic Artesian Basin (BAB), Estonia, is part of a unique groundwater reservoir where groundwater originating from glacial meltwater recharge from the Scandinavian Ice Sheet is preserved. The distribution of redox zones in the anoxic O-Cm aquifer system is unusual. Strongly reducing conditions are found near the modern recharge area characterized by low concentrations of sulphate (<5 mg·L⁻¹) and the presence of CH₄ (up to 3.26 vol%). The concentrations of SO₄²⁻ increase and concentrations of CH₄ decrease farther down the groundwater flow path. Sulphate in fresh glacial palaeogroundwater originates probably from pyrite oxidation while brackish waters have gained their sulphate through mixing with relict saline formation waters residing in the deeper parts of the aquifer system. Stable isotopic composition of sulphate, especially relations between δ¹⁸OSO4-δ¹⁸Owater (∆¹⁸OSO4-H2O from +20.5 to +31.1‰) and δ³⁴SSO4-δ³⁴SH2S (∆³⁴SSO4-H2S value of +47.9‰) support a widespread occurrence of bacterial sulphate reduction in fresh glacial palaeogroundwater. We propose, that the observed unusual redox zonation is a manifestation of two different flow systems in the O-Cm aquifer system: 1) the topographically driven flow system which drives the infiltration of waters through the overlying carbonate formation in the modern recharge area; 2) the relict flow system farther down the groundwater flow path which developed as a response to large hydraulic gradients imposed by the Scandinavian Ice Sheet in Pleistocene. Thus, the strongly reducing conditions surrounding the modern recharge area may show the extent to which post-glacial recharge has influenced the aquifer system. O-Cm aquifer system is an example of an aquifer that has not reached a near-equilibrium state with respect to present day flow conditions and still exhibits hydrogeochemical patterns established under the influence of a continental ice sheet in Pleistocene.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics

UniBE Contributor:

Affolter, Stéphane and Leuenberger, Markus


500 Science > 530 Physics








Doris Rätz

Date Deposited:

11 Jul 2018 14:11

Last Modified:

12 Jul 2018 11:28

Publisher DOI:





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