Investigation on trace metal speciation and distribution in the Scheldt estuary

Camille Gaulier, Chunyang Zhou, Yue Gao, Wei Guo, Marek Reichstädter, Tianhui Ma, Willy Baeyens, Gabriel Billon

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4 Citations (Scopus)


The biogeochemical behavior of Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Ni and Pb along the historically polluted Scheldt estuary (Belgium - The Netherlands) was investigated in this study. As never studied before in this area, labile trace metals were measured using the passive sampling technique of Diffusive Gradients in Thin-films (DGT), while total dissolved and particulate trace metal concentrations were assessed using classic active sampling techniques. This dual approach allowed us to highlight the variations of trace metal speciation and distribution in the estuarine surface waters, considering environmental and physicochemical gradients along the transect. The large data set obtained was then compared with literature data of historical measurements along the Scheldt (from 1980 until now), but also from other estuaries. As emphasized by our results, trace metal mobility and partitioning along the Scheldt estuary was mainly driven by biogeochemical reactions which were strongly influenced by gradients of specific estuarine physico-chemical parameters, such as salinity, turbidity, temperature and so on. . Hence, all species of trace metals displayed a non-conservative behavior. More precisely, dissolved labile fractions of trace metals showed higher levels in the middle estuary, where many solubilization and remobilization processes occurred due to turbulent mixing mechanisms and an increasing salinity. Our study confirmed the decreasing trend historically observed for particulate metals along the Scheldt, as well as the rising concentrations recorded for dissolved trace metals which might also lead to an increase of their labile fraction measured by the DGT. Finally, these preliminary results suggested that a more regular monitoring of labile metal along the Scheldt estuary is essential to have an in-depth understanding of trace metal speciation and to review bioavailability of trace metals within estuarine ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number143827
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2021


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