Enrichment of trace metals from acid sulfate soils in sediments of the Kvarken Archipelago, eastern Gulf of Bothnia, Baltic Sea

Virtasalo, Joonas J.; Österholm, Peter; Kotilainen, Aarno T.; Åström, Mats E.

Rivers draining the acid sulfate soils of western Finland are known to deliver large amounts of trace metals with detrimental environmental consequences to the recipient estuaries in the eastern Gulf of Bothnia, northern Baltic Sea. However, the distribution of these metals in the coastal sea area and the relevant metal transport mechanisms have been less studied. This study investigates the spatial and temporal distribution of metals in sediments at nine sites in the Kvarken Archipelago, which is the recipient system of Laihianjoki and Sulvanjoki rivers that are impacted by acid sulfate soils. The contents of Cd, Co, Cu, La, Mn, Ni, and Zn increased in the cores during the 1960s and 1970s as a consequence of intensive artificial drainage of the acid sulfate soil landscape. Metal deposition has remained at high levels since the 1980s. The metal enrichment in sea floor sediments is currently visible at least 25 km seaward from the river mouths. Comparison with sediment quality guidelines shows that the metal contents are very likely to cause detrimental effects on marine biota more than 12 km out from the river mouths. The dynamic sedimentary environment of the shallow archipelago makes these sediments potential future sources of metals to the ecosystem. Finally, the strong association of metals and nutrients in the same sediment grain size class of 2–6 inline-formulaµm suggests that the transformation of dissolved organic matter and metals to metal–organic aggregates at the river mouths is the key mechanism of seaward trace metal transport, in addition to co-precipitation with Mn oxyhydroxides identified in previous studies. The large share of terrestrial organic carbon in the total organic C in these sediments (interquartile range – 39 %–48 %) highlights the importance of riverine organic matter supply. These findings are important for the estimation of environmental risks and the management of biologically sensitive coastal sea ecosystems.

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Virtasalo, Joonas J. / Österholm, Peter / Kotilainen, Aarno T. / et al: Enrichment of trace metals from acid sulfate soils in sediments of the Kvarken Archipelago, eastern Gulf of Bothnia, Baltic Sea. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Joonas J. Virtasalo et al.

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