Factors controlling the incorporation of trace metals to coastal marine sediments: cases of study in the Galician Rías Baixas (NW Spain)
UNIVERSAL IDENTIFIER: http://hdl.handle.net/11093/2346
UNESCO SUBJECT: 2510.90 Geología Marina ; 251090-1 Geología Marina. Dinámica Sedimentaria ; 2503.09 Distribución de Elementos Traza
DOCUMENT TYPE: bookPart
Introduction: Transitional coastal environments such as the Galician Rías in the Atlantic coast of NW Spain are densely populated areas. Their environmental problems are highlighted by the conflicting interests of different economic sectors: extensive mariculture activities are located in its waters and intertidal zone; shipbuilding, carbuilding, canning and other industries compete with tourism on their shores; and dairy farming is the main agricultural activity in its surrounding hills and hinterland (Vilas et al., 2008). As a result, the management of the coastal zone is highly complex and it is difficult to balance quality of coastal waters with economic activities. For instance, in the Ría de Vigo, the southernmost of the Rías Baixas, wastewater treatment plants were not installed until the 1990s, and in spite of regional environmental legislation (Lei 8/2001), their capacity was still insufficient in 2005 when the European Court of Justice found Spain guilty of failure to fulfill its obligations under the Article 5 of the Council Directive 79/923/EEC on the quality required for shellfish waters (Case C-26/04 ECJ). This case was closed following Spain's submission of a pollution-reducing programme specifically pertinent to shellfish waters; success of this plan will depend critically on the behaviour of the sediments on the ría bottom. Galician Rías experience seasonal upwelling, which increases marine productivity. This promotes the deposition of high organic matter contents in the bottom sediments and contributes to the observed intense sedimentation rates of 1-6 mm yr-1 (Álvarez-Iglesias et al., 2007; Rubio et al., 2001). Current levels of trace metals (Prego & Cobelo, 2003) in sediments of these Rías have caused a significant concern by local and European authorities in the last ten years, especially in relation to the application of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), aimed to ensure that all waters reach “good status” by 2015. Some of these studies (Álvarez-Iglesias et al., 2003; Belzunce-Segarra et al., 2008; Rubio et al., 2000a) showed that the highest concentration of trace metals occurs in the muddiest surficial sediments of the rías, and that their fate and bioavalability depends on the intensity and speed of bacterial-mediated redoxomorphic post-sedimentary processes (Álvarez-Iglesias & Rubio, 2008, 2009; Rubio et al., 2010). This chapter will review the main factors that control the incorporation of metals to the sediments in these environments, with a focus on the forcing factors and their temporal evolution in the recent sedimentary record. This study will also show the critical importance of distinguishing and quantifying the various metal forms by using sequential extractions and by the determination of magnetic properties in order to reach a full understanding of the potential and present environmental impacts of contaminated sediments. Special emphasis will be put in the role of mussel rafts on the diagenetic inmobilization of heavy metals. Finally, the solubility of these metals by aerobic oxidation will be analyzed in some laboratory experiments in order to improve coastal risks prevention and management.
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