Head of working group

Prof. Dr. Gudrun Massmann


AG Hydrogeology and Landscape Hydrology
IBU, Fk. V, Building A1 
Carl von Ossietzky Universität 
D-26111 Oldenburg


Renate Kettmann 
Room: A1 1-130 
Phone: ++49 (0) 441 / 798 - 4236 
Fax: ++49 (0) 441 / 798 -3769 


The Dynamic Deep Subsurface of High-Energy Beaches

Project summary

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 the functioning of subterranean estuaries below high-energy beaches is currently poorly understood, as field studies have mostly focussed on low- or moderate-energy sites. 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 dynamic deep subsurface of high-energy beaches where dynamic boundary conditions propagate deep (tens of meters) into the subsurface leading to strong spatio-temporal variabilities of geochemical conditions. Subterranean estuaries below high-energy beaches may thus form a unique microbial 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 redox processes and related abiotic transformations. Furthermore, it will assess speciation and transformation 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 and experimental work and use mathematical models in an integrative approach. In the first phase, the subprojects will jointly establish a Subterranean Estuary Online Observatory on the island of Spiekeroog to investigate one core site in detail, before verifying observations at other high-energy sites in a second phase. Ultimately, DynaDeep will elucidate the global relevance of the dynamic deep subsurface of high-energy beaches for coastal ecosystems as well as for carbon, nutrient and trace element cycling.

Official webpage


Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven

Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, Hannover

Institute of Biology and Environmental Sciences, University of Oldenburg

Institute of Chemsitry and Biology of the Marine Environment, University of Oldenburg

Institute for Geosciences, University of Kiel

Leibnitz Institute for Applied Geophysics, Hannover

Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology Bremen

National Park Authority, National Park Wadden Sea of Lower Saxony, Wilhelmshaven

Niedersächsische Landesbetrieb für Wasserwirtschaft, Küsten- und Naturschutz, Norden


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Project duration

April 2021 - March 2025

Persons in charge


Greskowiak, J. and Massmann, G. (2021). The impact of morphodynamics and storm floods on pore water flow and transport in the subterranean estuary. Hydrological Processes, e14050,

(Changed: 02 Feb 2024)  | 
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