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Sediment stratigraphy and heavy metal fluxes to reservoirs in the Southern Pennine Uplands, UK

Shotbolt, Laura A. and Hutchinson, Simon M. and Thomas, Andrew D. (2006) Sediment stratigraphy and heavy metal fluxes to reservoirs in the Southern Pennine Uplands, UK. Journal of paleolimnology, 35 (2). pp. 305-322. ISSN 0921-2728

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Abstract

Reservoir sediments are rarely used as environmental archives because of the potential for sediment disturbance by fluctuating water levels. However, rapid rates of sedimentation, proximity to urban centres and often the existence of management records, may make them potentially important resources for reconstructing recent, anthropogenically-derived environmental change. This project assesses the potential of reservoir sedimentary records for reconstructing past atmospheric and drainage basin fluxes of heavy metals (manganese, iron, nickel, copper, zinc and lead) in the southern Pennines, UK. Five reservoirs were selected on the basis of management history and drainage basin characteristics. Multiparameter analysis showed sediments to be replicable across the ‘accumulating zone’ with reasonably consistent rates of sedimentation. Water level fluctuations were not found to detrimentally affect sediment records in the deepwater area of the reservoirs. In fact, spheroidal carbonaceous particle (SCP) profiles show trends in inputs that closely reflect major changes in industrialisation, indicating the reservoir sediments to be excellent records of particulate inputs. Only lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn) were significantly enriched in the reservoir sediment in comparison to background levels. Manganese (Mn), iron (Fe) and to a limited degree, copper (Cu), appeared to be affected by post-deposition mobility. Preliminary calculations of Pb fluxes indicate that over 80% of the current Pb input to the reservoirs is from Pb deposited onto drainage basin soils in the past, rather than from direct atmospheric deposition or natural background inputs. In Howden reservoir, for example, the total Pb flux to deepwater sediment cores in 2000 was 119 mg m-2 a-1. Of this, an estimated 99 mg m-2 a-1 was from anthropogenicallyderived Pb, initially deposited onto drainage basin soils and subsequently entering the reservoir via erosion and leaching processes. There is, therefore, no indication that the flux of Pb to the aquatic system is declining in response to reductions in Pb deposition. The ecotoxicological effects of the high and continuing Pb flux to these reservoirs, despite recent decreases in atmospheric deposition, is an area requiring further investigation.

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