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Contrasting behaviour of trace metals in the Scheldt estuary in 1978 compared to recent years
Nolting, R.F.; Helder, W.; de Baar, H.J.W.; Gerringa, L.J.A. (1999). Contrasting behaviour of trace metals in the Scheldt estuary in 1978 compared to recent years. J. Sea Res. 42(4): 275-290. dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1385-1101(99)00036-2
In: Journal of Sea Research. Elsevier/Netherlands Institute for Sea Research: Amsterdam; Den Burg. ISSN 1385-1101, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Trace metals; Brackish water; Fresh water

Authors  Top 
  • Nolting, R.F.
  • Helder, W.
  • de Baar, H.J.W.
  • Gerringa, L.J.A., more

Abstract
    Dissolved and particulate trace metals (Cu, Cd, Pb, Zn, Ni, Fe and Mn) measured at six stations along the Scheldt estuary in October/November 1978 are compared with more recent data. Based on Ca content in the suspended matter, three distinct geochemical regions could be distinguished: the upper estuary (salinity 1-7) dominated by fluvial mud, mid-estuary (salinity 7-17) where the composition of the suspended matter remained relatively constant, and the lower estuary where marine mud prevailed. Re-suspension of sediments is the major factor controlling the composition of the particles in the upstream region. Anoxic conditions prevailed in the upper part of the estuary extending to a salinity of 15 in 1978, while at present the seaward boundary of the anoxic water body is located at less saline waters. Furthermore, the present-day metal load is much lower than in 1978. As a consequence of the changed situation, maxima in dissolved concentrations of redox-sensitive metals in the mid/lower estuary have moved as well, which affects the trace metal re-distribution pattern. In the anoxic zone, exchange processes between dissolved and particulate metal fractions were strongly redox regulated, with Fe and Mn as excellent examples. Iron was removed from the dissolved phase in the early stages of mixing resulting in an increase in the suspended particulate matter of the leachable ‘non-residual' Fe fraction from 2 to 3.5%. Due to its slower kinetics, removal of Mn from solution occurred in mid-estuary where oxygen concentrations increased. Cu, Cd and Zn on the contrary were mobilised from the suspended particles during estuarine mixing. External inputs of Pb, and to a lesser extent of Cu, in the lower estuary resulted in the increase of their particulate and the dissolved concentrations. Calculated Kd (distribution coefficient) values were used to assess the redistribution between the dissolved and particulate phase of the investigated metals. Due to the existence of the anoxic water body in the upper estuary, the importance of redox processes in determining the Kd values could be demonstrated. The sequence of Kd values in the upper estuary (Fe, Cd, Zn, Pb > Cu > Ni, Mn) is significantly different from that in the lower estuary (Fe > Mn > Pb, Ni, Zn, Cu, Cd). Thus, in such a dynamic estuary single metal-specific Kd values cannot be used to describe redistribution processes.

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