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Sedimentary and Geochemical Systems in Transitional Marine Sediments in the Northeastern Gulf of Mexico
Wayne C. Isphording (1), John A. Stringfellow (1), George C. Flowers (2)
The coastal zone of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico is marked by a series of bays and estuaries that serve as the principal depositional basins for rivers draining an area of greater than 160,000 km2. These rivers annually contribute a sediment load to the basins in excess of 12 million tons. Because each river drains a watershed of different lithologic character and each river is further characterized by a different flow regime and hydraulic properties, the sediments deposited in the marginal basins have their own uniqueness.
Extensive municipal and industrial "dumping" of effluent over the years has also acted to imprint geochemical differences on each of the depositional basins. Depending upon the degree of industrialization within the watershed, the bays and estuaries may be described as ranging from "heavily impacted" (Mobile Bay), "moderately impacted" (Apalachicola Bay, Mississippi Sound) or "slightly impacted" (Pensacola Bay). A strong correlation was observed between the degree of heavy metal contamination and the textural and organic content of the sediments. Analyses further indicated that most metals were partitioned in the bottom sediments in forms that would permit their subsequent release back into the water column or would allow transference of the metal to fauna by ingestion.
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