4 years ago

River sediment metal and nutrient variations along an urban–agriculture gradient in an arid austral landscape: implications for environmental health

Olaf L. F. Weyl, Tatenda Dalu, Ryan J. Wasserman, Qihang Wu, William P. Froneman


The effect of metals on environmental health is well documented and monitoring these and other pollutants is considered an important part of environmental management. Developing countries are yet to fully appreciate the direct impacts of pollution on aquatic ecosystems and as such, information on pollution dynamics is scant. Here, we assessed the temporal and spatial dynamics of stream sediment metal and nutrient concentrations using contaminant indices (e.g. enrichment factors, pollution load and toxic risk indices) in an arid temperate environment over the wet and dry seasons. The mean sediment nutrient, organic matter and metal concentration were highest during the dry season, with high values being observed for the urban environment. Sediment contaminant assessment scores indicated that during the wet season, the sediment quality was acceptable, but not so during the dry season. The dry season had low to moderate levels of enrichment for metals B, Cu, Cr, Fe, Mg, K and Zn. Overall, applying the sediment pollution load index highlighted poor quality river sediment along the length of the river. Toxic risk index indicated that most sites posed no toxic risk. The results of this study highlighted that river discharge plays a major role in structuring temporal differences in sediment quality. It was also evident that infrastructure degradation was likely contributing to the observed state of the river quality. The study contributes to our understanding of pollution dynamics in arid temperate landscapes where vast temporal differences in base flow characterise the riverscape. Such information is further useful for contrasting sediment pollution dynamics in aquatic environments with other climatic regions.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11356-017-0728-1

DOI: 10.1007/s11356-017-0728-1

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