The research unit DynaDeep investigates the connective zones between inland aquifers and the open sea where meteoric freshwater and circulating seawater mix and undergo major biogeochemical changes affecting the elemental net fluxes to the sea.

Project objectives

Subterranean estuaries are hidden connective zones between inland aquifers and the open sea where meteoric freshwater and circulating seawater mix and undergo major biogeochemical changes. Hence, they are considered powerful biogeochemical reactors affecting elemental net fluxes to the sea. DynaDeep is motivated by the fact that we need to understand the extent and functionality of marineterrestrial interactions in subterranean estuaries, in order to comprehend the current dynamics and future trajectory of ecosystem functioning within the sedimentary land-sea interface. In particular, the effect of hydro- and morphodynamics on subsurface flow and transport is unclear and related consequences on biogeochemical reactions and microbial habitat characteristics have not been investigated. We propose the existence of a so far unexplored biogeochemical reactor within the deep subsurface of high-energy beaches, where dynamic boundary conditions propagate tens of meters into the subsurface leading to strong spatio-temporal variability of geochemical conditions. Subterranean estuaries below high-energy beaches may thus form a unique habitat with an adapted microbial community unlike other typically more stable subsurface environments. DynaDeep will study groundwater flow patterns as a function of hydro- and morphodynamics. It will deliver rates of biotic and abiotic transformation of organic matter and investigate related redox processes. Furthermore, it will assess transformation and fractionation of trace metals and metal isotopes. Microbial interactions with organic matter will be investigated,
as well as the diversity and metabolic functioning of microbial communities. Six subprojects will cooperate in joint field campaigns, shared sampling approaches as well as experimental work and use mathematical models in an integrative approach. 

The subproject P1 "Morphodynamics, subsurface flow and transport" relates the beachs morphodynamic with groundwater flow and transport. Therefore, geomorphological, hydrological and geophysical data is recorded at different temporal and spatial scales. The geophysical data essentially comprise geoelectric measurements from the surface at 6-week intervals and the installation of a SAMOS for continuous acquisition. Numerical concepts need to be developed to integrate these geoelectric data with the changing beach morphology and direct-push measurements.


Project management


Prof. Dr. Mike Müller-Petke
+49 511 643-3253

Dr. Thomas Günther
+49 511 643-3494





University of Oldenburg

Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research

Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources

Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel



Grant no. MU 3318/7-1