Geochemical and sedimentological characteristics of surface sediments from Ashtamudi Estuary, Southern India: implications for provenance and modern sedimentary dynamics

  • Praveen K. Mishra
  • Shah Parth
  • Yadav Ankit
  • Sunil Kumar
  • V. Ambili
  • Vivek V. Kumar
  • Shweta Singh
  • Ambili AnoopEmail author
Original Article


Geochemical and end-member mixing analyses (EMMA) of the grain-size distribution were conducted on recent surface sediments from Ashtamudi Estuary, Southern India to investigate the hydrodynamic factors that influence the depositional processes in the region. The complex interplay between the natural (fluvial and marine) and anthropogenic influences on the Ashtamudi Estuary have been delineated based on the inter-relationships between geochemical elements and the end members (EM) derived from the grain-size parameters. Si, Al and Fe are the major elements in the sediment of Ashtamudi Estuary constituting 26–47%, 9–21%, and 8–14%, respectively. Four grain-size end members were identified with dominant modes of 7ϕ (EM1), 6ϕ (EM2), 4.5ϕ (EM3), and 3.3ϕ (EM4) corresponding to fine silt, medium silt, coarse silt, and fine sand, respectively. The high contributions of Al, Fe, Cr and Ni combined with the EM1 and EM2 in the upstream of the estuary indicated that the fine-grained sediments were derived from the fluvial inputs into the basin. The marine/tidal influenced lower estuary is characterised by high concentrations of Si, Ti, Ca, Sr and coarse fraction end member (EM3). The elemental concentration of Cu, Zn and Co along with EM4 shows higher values along the shore region suggesting human interventions in the basin. This integrated geochemical analysis and EMMA provide advancement in the knowledge of the transportation mechanisms and regional sediment dynamics from the estuarine system in Southern India.


End-member modelling Grain size Estuary Geochemistry Southern India 



PKM and AA gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by DST-INSPIRE faculty programme. We thank Mr. Pranay Dewate from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (Dehradun) for useful discussion.


The funding was provided by DST-INSIRE Faculty (Grand No. DST/INSPIRE/04/2015/002769) and DST-Inspire Faculty (DST/INSPIRE/04/2015/001199).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors confirm that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Allen GP (1971) Relationship between grain size parameter distribution and current patterns in the Gironde estuary (France). J Sediment Res 41(1):74–88Google Scholar
  2. Allen GP (1991) Sedimentary processes and facies in the Gironde estuary: a recent model for macrotidal estuarine systems. Clastic Tidal Sedimentol 16:29–39Google Scholar
  3. Anithamary I, Ramkumar T, Venkatramanan S (2011) Grain size characteristics of the Coleroon estuary sediments, Tamil Nadu, east coast of India. Carpath J Earth Environ Sci 6(2):151–157Google Scholar
  4. Ankit Y, Mishra PK, Kumar P, Jha DK, Kumar VV, Ambili V, Anoop A (2017) Molecular distribution and carbon isotope of n-alkanes from Ashtamudi Estuary, South India: assessment of organic matter sources and paleoclimatic implications. Mar Chem 196:62–70Google Scholar
  5. Anooja S, Padmalal D, Maya K, Mohan SV, Baburaj B (2013) Heavy mineral contents and provenance of Late Quaternary sediments of southern Kerala, Southwest India. Indian J Geo Mar Sci 42(6):749–757Google Scholar
  6. Antony MM, Ignatius J (2016) A hydrological study of Ashtamudi Lake, Kerala, India with special reference to its ecological difference. Int J Sci Res 5(8):1841–1846Google Scholar
  7. Babu KN, Omana PK, Mohan M (2010) Water and sediment quality of Ashtamudi estuary, a Ramsar site, southwest coast of India—a statistical appraisal. Environ Monit Assess 165(1):307–319Google Scholar
  8. Balachandran KK, Joseph T, Nair M, Sankaranarayanan VN, Kesavadas V, Sheeba P (2003) Geochemistry of surficial sediments along the central southwest coast of India: seasonal changes in regional distribution. J Coast Res 664–683Google Scholar
  9. Basavaiah N, Wiesner MG, Anoop A, Menzel P, Nowaczyk NR, Deenadayalan K, Brauer A, Gaye B, Naumann R, Riedel N, Prasad MS (2014) Physicochemical analyses of surface sediments from the Lonar Lake, central India–implications for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. Fundam Appl Limnol 184(1):51–68Google Scholar
  10. Borchers A, Dietze E, Kuhn G, Esper O, Voigt I, Hartmann K, Diekmann B (2016) Holocene ice dynamics and bottom-water formation associated with Cape Darnley polynya activity recorded in Burton Basin, East Antarctica. Mar Geophys Res 37:49–70Google Scholar
  11. Burton JD, Liss PS (1976) Estuarine chemistry. Academic press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Cui Z, Hou Y, Xia Z, Liang K, Xue Q, Zhang L (2015) Geochemical characteristics and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of the sediments from the Gulf of Tonkin, South China Sea. Geol Soc Lond Spec Publ 429:412–429Google Scholar
  13. Dessai DV, Nayak GN, Basavaiah N (2009) Grain size, geochemistry, magnetic susceptibility: proxies in identifying sources and factors controlling distribution of metals in a tropical estuary, India. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 85(2):307–318Google Scholar
  14. Dietze E, Hartmann K, Diekmann B, IJmker J, Lehmkuhl F, Opitz S, Stauch G, Wünnemann B, Borchers A (2012) An end-member algorithm for deciphering modern detrital processes from lake sediments of Lake Donggi Cona, NE Tibetan Plateau, China. Sediment Geol 243:169–180Google Scholar
  15. Dietze E, Wünnemann B, Hartmann K, Diekmann B, Jin H, Stauch G, Yang S, Lehmkuhl F (2013) Early to mid-Holocene lake high-stand sediments at Lake Donggi Cona, northeastern Tibetan Plateau, China. Quat Res 79:325–336Google Scholar
  16. Divakaran O, Murugan T, Nair NB (1981) Distribution and seasonal variation of the benthic fauna of the Ashtamudi lake, south-west coast of India. Mahasagar 14(3):167–172Google Scholar
  17. Dyer KR (1995) Sediment transport processes in estuaries. Dev Sedimentol 53:423–449Google Scholar
  18. Heinecke L, Mischke S, Adler K, Barth A, Biskaborn BK, Plessen B, Nitze I, Kuhn G, Rajabov I, Herzschuh U (2017) Climatic and limnological changes at Lake Karakul (Tajikistan) during the last ~ 29 cal ka. J Paleolimnol 58:317–334Google Scholar
  19. Ip CC, Li XD, Zhang G, Wai OW, Li YS (2007) Trace metal distribution in sediments of the Pearl River Estuary and the surrounding coastal area, South China. Environ Pollut 147(2):311–323Google Scholar
  20. Jennerjahn TC, Soman K, Ittekkot V, Nordhaus I, Sooraj S, Priya RS, Lahajnar N (2008) Effect of land use on the biogeochemistry of dissolved nutrients and suspended and sedimentary organic matter in the tropical Kallada River and Ashtamudi estuary, Kerala, India. Biogeochemistry 90(1):29–47Google Scholar
  21. Karim LR, Williams ES (2015) Accumulation of heavy metals in the surface water of Ashtamudi Lake, Kollam, Kerala. Nat Environ Polluti Technol 14(2):431Google Scholar
  22. Krishnakumar A, Saranya P, Prasad PG, Rakhi C (2015) Holocene records of human driven geological impacts in a Ramsar Wetland of India. Aquat Procedia 4:373–380Google Scholar
  23. Krishnan R, Jaya DS (2014) Impact of industrial effluents on the hydrochemical characteristics of Kayamkulam estuary, south west coast of India. J Ind Pollut Control 30(1):43–48Google Scholar
  24. Liaghati T, Preda M, Cox M (2004) Heavy metal distribution and controlling factors within coastal plain sediments, Bells Creek catchment, southeast Queensland, Australia. Environ Int 29(7):935–948Google Scholar
  25. Liria P, Garel E, Uriarte A (2009) The effects of dredging operations on the hydrodynamics of an ebb tidal delta: Oka Estuary, northern Spain. Cont Shelf Res 29(16):1983–1994Google Scholar
  26. Liu S, Shi X, Yang G, Khokiattiwong S, Kornkanitnan N (2016) Distribution of major and trace elements in surface sediments of the western gulf of Thailand: implications to modern sedimentation. Cont Shelf Res 117:81–91Google Scholar
  27. Meade RH (1972) Transport and deposition of sediments in estuaries. Geol Soc Am Mem 133:91–120Google Scholar
  28. Mishra PK, Anoop A, Jehangir A, Prasad S, Menzel P, Schettler G, Naumann R, Weise S, Andersen N, Yousuf AR, Gaye B (2014) Limnology and modern sedimentation patterns in high altitude Tso Moriri Lake, NW Himalaya–implications for proxy development. Fundam Appl Limnol 185(3–4):329–348Google Scholar
  29. Mishra PK, Anoop A, Schettler G, Prasad S, Jehangir A, Menzel P, Naumann R, Yousuf AR, Basavaiah N, Deenadayalan K, Wiesner MG (2015) Reconstructed late Quaternary hydrological changes from Lake Tso Moriri, NW Himalaya. Quat Int 371:76–86Google Scholar
  30. Mohan SV, Ruta RB, Padmalal D, Ahmad SM, Kumaran KPN (2016) Holocene climatic vicissitudes and sea level changes in the south western coast of India: appraisal of stable isotopes and palynology. Quat Int 443:164–176Google Scholar
  31. Mucci A, Morse JW (1982) The incorporation of Mg2 + and Sr2 + into calcite overgrowths: influences of growth rate and solution composition. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 47(2):217–233Google Scholar
  32. Nagendra R, Ramasamy N, Prakash T, Tiju V (2017) Heavy metal studies of core sediments, Ashtamudi estuary, Southern Kerala, India. J Indian Assoc Sedimentol 34(1&2):127–139Google Scholar
  33. Nagpal NK (2004) Water protection section, water, air and climate change branch, ministry of water, land and air protection. Technical report, water quality guidelines for cobaltGoogle Scholar
  34. Nair NB, Azis PK, Dharmaraj K, Arunachalam M, Kumar KK, Balasubramanian NK (1983) Ecology of Indian Estuaries: part 1-physico-chemical features of water and sediment nutrients of Ashtamudi Estuary. Indian J Mar Sci 12:143–150Google Scholar
  35. Nair NB, Dhramaraj K, Azis PKA, Arunachalam M, Krishnakumar K, Balasubramanian NK (1984) Ecology of Indian Estuaries: 8. Inorganic nutrients in the Ashtamudi Estuary. Mahasagar 17(1):19–32Google Scholar
  36. Nair MNM, Prakash TN, Kurian NP, Rejith K (2001) Hydrography and sediment chemistry of Ashtamudi estuary. In: Developing a management plan for Ashtamudi estuary, Kollam, India ASR, New Zealand and Center for Earth Science Studies, Trivandrum, pp 363–430Google Scholar
  37. Nair KM, Padmalal D, Kumaran KPN, Sreeja R, Limaye RB, Srinivas R (2010) Late quaternary evolution of Ashtamudi–Sasthamkotta lake systems of Kerala, south west India. J Asian Earth Sci 37(4):361–372Google Scholar
  38. Oyedotun TDT (2016) Sediment characterisation in an Estuary-beach system. J Coast Zone Manag 19(2):433Google Scholar
  39. Padmalal D, Kumaran KPN, Nair KM, Baijulal B, Limaye RB, Mohan SV (2011) Evolution of the coastal wetland systems of SW India during the Holocene: evidence from marine and terrestrial archives of Kollam coast, Kerala. Quat Int 237(1):123–139Google Scholar
  40. Papaefthymiou H, Papatheodorou G, Christodoulou D, Geraga M, Moustakli A, Kapolos J (2010) Elemental concentrations in sediments of the Patras Harbour, Greece, using INAA, ICP-MS and AAS. Microchem J 96(2):269–276Google Scholar
  41. Perillo GM, Perez DE, Piccolo MC, Palma ED, Cuadrado DG (2005) Geomorphologic and physical characteristics of a human impacted estuary: Quequén Grande River Estuary, Argentina. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 62(1–2):301–312Google Scholar
  42. Prakash TN (2000) Sediment distribution and placer mineral enrichment in the inner shelf of Quilon, SW coast of India. Indian J Mar Sci 29:12Google Scholar
  43. Prakash TN, Black KP, Mathew J, Kurian NP, Thomas KV, Shahul Hameed TS, Vinod MV, Rajith K (2007) Nearshore and beach sedimentary dynamics in a placer-dominated coast, southwest India. J Coast Res 23(6):1391–1398Google Scholar
  44. Prins MA, Stuut JBW, Lamy F, Weltje GJ (1999) End-member modelling of grain-size distributions of deep-sea detrital sediments and its palaeoclimatic significance: examples from the NW Indian, E Atlantic and SE Pacific Oceans. Geophys Res Abstr 2:2000Google Scholar
  45. Rajan DS, Bindhu R (2011) Distribution pattern of organic carbon in the sediments of Ashtamudi estuary. The Ecoscan 1:71–74Google Scholar
  46. Reshmi RR, Nair KD, Zachariah EJ, Vincent SGT (2015) Methanogenesis: seasonal changes in human impacted regions of Ashtamudi estuary (Kerala, South India). Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 156:144–154Google Scholar
  47. Rubio B, Nombela MA, Vilas F (2000) Geochemistry of major and trace elements in sediments of the Ria de Vigo (NW Spain): an assessment of metal pollution. Mar Pollut Bull 40(11):968–980Google Scholar
  48. Sajan K, Damodaran KT, Flemming WB (1992) The sedimentary frame work of the Ashtamudi estuary, Kerala, South West India. Z Geol Paläontol Teil I H12:2995–3007Google Scholar
  49. Sanzgiri S, Moraes C (1979) Trace metals in the Laccadive Sea. Indian J Mar Sci 8:254–257Google Scholar
  50. Sitaram N (2014) Impact of urbanisation on water quality parameters—a case study of Ashtamudi Lake Kollam. Int J Res Eng Technol 3(6):140–147Google Scholar
  51. Sujatha CH, Nify B, Ranjitha R, Fanimol CL, Samantha NK (2009) Nutrient dynamics in the two lakes of Kerala, India. Indian J Mar Sci 38:451–456Google Scholar
  52. Turner A (2010) Marine pollution from antifouling paint particles. Mar Pollut Bull 60(2):159–171Google Scholar
  53. Varghese TI (2014) Sedimentology and geochemistry of core sediments from the Ashtamudi Estuary and the adjoining coastal plain Central Kerala, India. Doctoral dissertation, Cochin University of Science And TechnologyGoogle Scholar
  54. Venables WN, Ripley BD (2013) Modern applied statistics with S-PLUS. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  55. Vijith H, Prasannakumar V, Pratheesh P, Krishnan MN, Mohan MS (2016) Evaluation of geomorphic expressions of bedrock channels in the Western Ghats of southern Kerala, India, through quantitative analysis. Arab J Geosci 9(5):393Google Scholar
  56. Wang H, Bi N, Saito Y, Wang Y, Sun X, Zhang J, Yang Z (2010) Recent changes in sediment delivery by the Huang He (Yellow River) to the sea: causes and environmental implications in its estuary. J Hydrol 391(3):302–313Google Scholar
  57. Weltje GJ (1997) End-member modeling of compositional data: numerical-statistical algorithms for solving the explicit mixing problem. Math Geol 29(4):503–549Google Scholar
  58. Williams JR, Dellapenna TM, Lee GH (2013) Shifts in depositional environments as a natural response to anthropogenic alterations: Nakdong Estuary, South Korea. Mar Geol 343:47–61Google Scholar
  59. Wright LD (1977) Sediment transport and deposition at river mouths: a synthesis. Geol Soc Am Bull 88(6):857–868Google Scholar
  60. Zhou HY, Peng XT, Pan JM (2004) Distribution, source and enrichment of some chemical elements in sediments of the Pearl River Estuary, China. Cont Shelf Res 24(16):1857–1875Google Scholar
  61. Zwolsman JJ, Van Eck GT (1999) Geochemistry of major elements and trace metals in suspended matter of the Scheldt estuary, southwest Netherlands. Mar Chem 66(1):91–111Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wadia Institute of Himalayan GeologyDehradunIndia
  2. 2.Indian Institute of Science Education and Research MohaliManauliIndia
  3. 3.Geological Survey of India, Marine and Coastal Survey DivisionVisakhapatnamIndia
  4. 4.Geological Survey of India, Marine and Coastal Survey DivisionCochinIndia

Personalised recommendations