Identifying temporally and spatially changing boundary conditions at an aquifer – aquitard interface using helium in porewater

Rufer, Daniel; Waber, Niklaus; Gimmi, Thomas (2018). Identifying temporally and spatially changing boundary conditions at an aquifer – aquitard interface using helium in porewater. Applied geochemistry, 96, pp. 62-77. Elsevier 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2018.05.022

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Helium concentrations and 3He/4He isotope ratios of porewater, groundwater and rock were measured on samples collected from a Jurassic sediment sequence at the Mont Terri underground rock laboratory (Northern Switzerland). Porewater He data of rock samples collected from borehole BDB-1 at high spatial resolution across a karstic limestone unit (Passwang Formation) into the underlying claystone sequence (Opalinus Clay, Staffelegg Formation) describe a continuous profile from the water-conducting zone in the limestone
into the clay-rich rocks of low permeability. Concentrations of 4He, 3He and their parent nuclides in the rock allow calculating insitu production and accumulation terms. Since the time of sedimentation, 90%–97% of the in-situ produced 4He has been released to the porewater. Today only 2.5% of the maximum possible accumulated 4He is still retained in the porewater while the major part of in-situ produced 4He was removed from the system presumably by porewater–groundwater exchange. The porewater 4He concentrations show a diffusion profile from the aquitard towards the aquifer, reflecting a) a transient state between 4He in-situ production and porewater–groundwater exchange, b) a transient state from previously higher 4He concentrations in the porewater, and c) a spatially variable boundary in the karstic limestone unit. Evolutionary models of porewater 4He concentration profiles in combination with constraints from independent chemical and isotopic tracers allow deciphering a complex palaeo-hydrogeological history of the system over about the last 30 ka. A local excursion from the general profile towards higher 4He concentrations and 3He/4He ratio in a limestone layer in the Opalinus Clay cannot be further constrained in time based on the present sample frequency, but appears to represent a hydrogeological signal.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Rock-Water Interaction

UniBE Contributor:

Rufer, Daniel; Waber, Niklaus and Gimmi, Thomas


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Daniel Rufer

Date Deposited:

30 Jan 2019 10:27

Last Modified:

01 Oct 2020 02:30

Publisher DOI:





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