|Diagnosis of the transport of adsorbed material in the Scheldt estuary: a proof of concept|In: Journal of Marine Systems. Elsevier: Tokyo; Oxford; New York; Amsterdam. ISSN 0924-7963, more
Age; Transit time; Tracers; Heavy metals; Adsorbed contaminants; Scheldt estuary
Many contaminants can attach to suspended particles. Their transport differs therefore from the transport of dissolved substances, especially in highly turbid environment like estuaries. In this paper, we show how the Constituent Age and Residence time Theory (CART) can be adapted to quantify in a rigorous manner the transport rate of contaminants that are present in both the dissolved and adsorbed phases.On the basis of numerical experiment using a 1D model of the Scheldt estuary, it is shown that the interaction with suspended particles significantly affects the transport of contaminants with partition coefficients larger than 103 ml/g. The mean transit time from Ghent to Vlissingen of such contaminants can reach 160 days while it is only 60 days for water and dissolved constituents. This increase of the transit time is mainly due to the fact that adsorbed constituents spend long periods of time on the bottom. Surprisingly, the downstream transport of adsorbed constituents in the water column appears more effective than that of dissolved constituents. This transport affects however a small fraction of the adsorbed constituent and is therefore not sufficient to compensate for the long resting phase on the bottom of the bulk of the constituent.The concept and methodology introduced in this paper are easily applicable to most model studies and provide powerful and flexible tools for the detailed understanding of the transport of contaminants in estuaries. In particular, the concept of age and modified ages taking into account specifically the time spent in the water column or in the bottom provide new diagnostic tools to understand and quantify the dynamics of contaminants.