Spatial sediment variability in a tropical tide dominated estuary: Sources and drivers

Research paper by Silvia H.M. Sousa, Paulo A.L. Ferreira, Maria V.A. Martins, Eduardo Siegle, Paula G.C. Amaral, Rubens C.L. Figueira, Cintia Yamashita, André R. Rodrigues, Michel M. Mahiques

Indexed on: 10 Aug '16Published on: 09 Aug '16Published in: Journal of South American Earth Sciences


Surficial sediment composition and spatial variability reflect the dynamics and level of natural and anthropogenic impact in estuarine systems. The aim of this study is to evaluate some key environmental and sedimentary variables, as well as to evaluate the current environmental quality in the tide-dominated Caravelas estuarine system (Brazil). Sixty-five surficial sediment samples were studied for grain size as well as calcium carbonate, total organic carbon, total nitrogen, metals, semi-metals and rare earth elements and for organic matter δ13C. Based on the spatial distribution of these data and summarizing our findings, three sectors can be individualized in the Caravelas estuarine system: i. Barra Velha inlet; ii. the main channel of the Caravelas estuary, and iii. the channel interconnecting Caravelas and Nova Viçosa estuaries. In the inlet the sedimentary organic matter is provided essentially by marine sources, which corroborates the small continental input. Freshwater dissolved organic carbon and particulate organic carbon occur in the interconnecting channel, proving the occurrence of the residual transport towards the Caravelas estuary, with continental contribution towards Caravelas River. The geochemical fingerprint indicates that the Barreiras Group, composed by Neogene terrigenous deposits, located west of the study area, as an important source of terrigenous material to the entire Caravelas estuary system. The higher values of heavy rare earth elements (between 20 and 30 mg kg−1) in the northern sector of the study area may be related to the high degree of chemical weathering in magmatic or metamorphic rocks, which occur to the north of the study area.

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