Several important biogeochemical reactions are known to occur near the interface between aquifer and aquitard sediments. These reactions include O2 reduction; denitrification; and Fe3+, SO42-, and CO2 (methanogenesis) reduction. In some settings, these reactions occur on the aquitard side of the interface as electron acceptors move from the aquifer into the electron-donor-enriched aquitard. In other settings, these reactions occur on the aquifer side of the interface as electron donors move from the aquitard into the electron-acceptor-enriched, or microorganism-enriched, aquifer. Thus, the aquifer/aquitard interface represents a mixing zone capable of supporting greater microbial activity than either hydrogeologic unit alone. The extent to which biogeochemical reactions proceed in the mixing zone and the width of the mixing zone depend on several factors, including the abundance and solubility of electron acceptors and donors on either side of the interface and the rate at which electron acceptors and donors react and move across the interface. Biogeochemical reactions near the aquifer/aquitard interface can have a substantial influence on the chemistry of water in aquifers and on the chemistry of sediments near the interface.
Additional publication details
Aquifer/aquitard interfaces: Mixing zones that enhance biogeochemical reactions