Ecological structures and functions in the Scheldt Estuary: from past to future
[en] trace metals ; major elements ; sediments ; estuary ; Scheldt
[en] Superficial sediments of the Scheldt estuary were collected with a Van Veen grab at 57 stations between Temse and Vlissingen. They were analysed for major elements (Si, Al, Fe, Ca, Mg, Na, K, Cinorg and Corg) and trace metals (Cd, Pb, Cu, Zn, Cr, Ni, Co, Mn and Li). Factor analysis indicates that 44% of the variance can be explained by one factor which exhibits a high saturation for trace metals, organic matter, Al and Fe, all variables typical of fine mud. The high scores of this first factor are almost exclusively present in the upper estuary except for one area in front of Terneuzen. The second factor, which explains 23% of the variance, is typical of the carbonates and the third one (19% of the variance) is representative of the clay minerals. These two factors are more evenly distributed over the estuary. As usual, a strong influence of granulometry on the distribution of trace elements in the sediments was observed. Intercomparison of their composition within the Scheldt or with those of other aquatic systems requires thus a normalization procedure. This problem has been studied in detail by analysing various size fractions (63–16, 16–8, 8–4, <4 m) obtained by elutriation of the sample or by using a parameter characteristic of the fine fraction such as the concentration of a typical element (Al, Fe, Li, Corg). The normalization of trace metals allowed us to evaluate an enrichment factor of the trace elements in the estuarine deposits due to mans activities. In addition, it demonstrates the decrease of the anthropogenic impact on the composition of sediments by comparing the composition of sediments collected in 1976 and in 1994.