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By knowing the dispersion patterns of river-borne sediments in marine environments, one can predict the spatial distribution of selected minerals, elements, and particle-bound pollutants. One potentially useful method for determining sediment pathways is by contouring selected trace metals in the sediments seaward of the river outflow. Using computer techniques involving trend surface analysis and a massive data set, we have contoured the regional distribution of chromium, copper, iron, nickel, and lead in surficial sediments from the Gulf of Mexico. Spatially, these metals range from very low concentrations in the sediments of the west Florida shelf to highest values on the Mississippi delta and along portions of the south Texas shelf. Intermediate concentrations are int rspersed between these areas. Observed contour patterns are referenced to suspended matter trace metal data for the Apalachicola, Mobile, Mississippi, Brazos, and Rio Grande Rivers to determine sediment-metal provenance and thus infer river dispersal patterns. Statistical treatment of our trace metal and sediment data was also carried out to identify the important geochemical variables (grain-size, carbonate content, and clay mineralogy) that control the observed sediment trace metal patterns.
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