Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 265–272 | Cite as

Heavy metals associated with reduced sulfur in sediments from different deposition environments in the Pearl River estuary, China

  • Fanrong Chen
  • Yongqiang Yang
  • Derong Zhang
  • Ling Zhang


Distribution of acid volatile sulfur (AVS) and the simultaneously extracted metals (SEM: Cu, Pb, Zn, Cd, Ni) in sediment profiles has been studied at five sites in Pearl River estuary, China. Of the five sampling locations, Nos.1 and 2 are in the middle shoal, Nos.3 and 4 in the west shoal and No. 5 locates to the south of the estuary. The AVS content in the sediments of the middle shoal varies in a small range (0.25–4.06 μmol g−1), while that of west shoal increases with depth from 0 to ultimately 26.09 μmol g−1. The SEM concentration in the sediment profiles at location Nos. 1, 2 and 5 is generally in the range of 0.95±0.2 μmol g−1 with a slight upward increase, while that in the sediment of west shallows are much higher (1.43–2.42 μmol g−1) with a significant upward increase, especially in the upper layer of ca. 15 cm. The observed upward increase of SEM content at all the sites implies that heavy metal contamination of sediment in the Pearl River estuary is increasing. Calculations of the excess heavy metal content which is defined by SEM-AVS molar difference suggests that the upper sediment in the Pearl River estuary, especially on the west shallows, could be a source of heavy metal contaminants and may cause toxicity to the benthos. The site-specific distribution patterns in the AVS and SEM profiles were interpreted according to the hydrogeochemistry of deposition environments.


bioavailability deposition environment heavy metals Pearl River estuary sediment pollution 


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This research was financially supported by Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant ZKCX2-SW−212, 2000 (254)) and Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry (Grant GIGCX-03–07).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fanrong Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yongqiang Yang
    • 1
    • 3
  • Derong Zhang
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ling Zhang
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Guangzhou Institute of GeochemistryChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouP.R. China
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Marginal Sea GeologyChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouP.R. China
  3. 3.Graduate SchoolChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingP.R. China

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