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Trace metal occurrence and distribution in sediments and mangroves, Pumicestone region, southeast Queensland, Australia

By Micaela Preda and Malcolm E. Cox


The Pumicestone region is a unique catchment in northern Moreton Bay, southeast Queensland. The region supports a wide range of land-use activities as well as attractions such as nature conservation areas. One environmental aspect that has not previously been addressed in this area is the occurrence of minor and trace metals in estuarine sediments associated with the main estuaries of the region. The trace metals included in this investigation are: vanadium, chromium, molybdenum, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, cadmium, lead and arsenic. To determine and evaluate the occurrence and distribution of metals in the area, several components have been analysed: bedrock material, pre-industrial settings, recent estuarine sediments, soils of estuarine origin and mangrove pneumatophores. The 40 sites chosen for sediment and soil samples cover a variety of estuarine settings and represent a range of natural conditions in terms of channel and bank morphology, tidal energy, vegetation cover, relationship to bedrock, water salinity and land disturbance.\ud \ud The chemical, mineralogical and statistical analyses employed in this study enabled (a) establishment of background values for the area, (b) determination of relationships between metals and (c) identification of sites with anomalous metal concentrations.\ud \ud All the metals found in the sediments of the area are sourced from the geological bedrock. The dominant trace elements identified in sediments are Zn, V and Cr. The remaining metals are highly variable spatially. All trace metals are controlled by the presence of Fe and Mn oxides, and by the grainsize of the sediment. Typically, fine-grained Fe-rich materials tend to adsorb more trace metals than sandy sediments. In soils that have developed from estuarine muds, some metals such as Cr, Mo, Pb and As tend to be in larger quantities than in the estuarine counterparts.\ud \ud Some of the elements, which occur in significant amounts in the sediment, have been detected in mangrove tissue (Avicennia marina) such as V, Cr, Zn, Fe and Mn. Of particular note is Cu, which is present in mangrove tissue in quantities many times exceeding the sediment concentration.\ud \ud The comparative analysis of pre-industrial settings and recent sediments and soils highlighted some areas of metal enrichment such as acid-affected sites where oxidation of pyrite has mobilised metals from sediments; these metals are then redistributed in Fe-rich surficial layers. Disturbed banks within the estuaries are also likely to have low levels of metal enrichment due to boating activities

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2002
DOI identifier: 10.1016/S0160-4120(02)00074-0
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