Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) is an important component of many coastal environments and hydrologic processes, providing sources of nutrients to marine ecosystems, and potentially, an important source of fresh water for human populations. Here, we use a combination of unpiloted aerial systems (UAS) thermal infrared (TIR) imaging and salinity measurements to characterize SGD on the remote East Polynesian island of Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile). Previous research has shown that coastal freshwater seeps are abundant on Rapa Nui and strongly associated with the locations of ancient settlement sites. We currently lack, however, information on the differential magnitude or quality of these sources of fresh water. Our UAS‐based TIR results from four locations on Rapa Nui suggest that locations of variably‐sized SGD plumes are associated with many ancient settlement sites on the island and that these water sources are resilient to drought events. These findings support previous work indicating that ancient Rapa Nui communities responded to the inherent and climate‐induced hydrological challenges of the island by focusing on these abundant and resilient freshwater sources. Our results highlight the efficacy of using UASbased TIR for detecting relatively small SGD locations and provide key insights on the potential uses of these water sources for past and current Rapa Nui communities.
- Thermal imagery
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Earth and Planetary Sciences