Chemical dynamics in North Sea estuaries and plumes
Observational and experimental studies have been undertaken in the southern North Sea environment, including five major estuaries (Humber, Thames, Scheldt, Weser and Elbe), with the aim of elucidating the mechanistic and kinetic details of trace metal reactivity required for the refinement of pollutant transport models. The results of a systematic investigation of suspended particle characteristics (BET specific surface area and porosity, carbon content. Fe and Mn oxide coatings) indicated that, although there exists significant yet explicable variability among the North Sea estuaries, such compositional factors do not exert an observable influence on solid-solution interactions. Furthermore, chemical reactivity was not usually demonstrable from observations of leachable particulate trace metals as phase interactions Impart relatively little influence on their concentrations; particulate metal distributions therefore generally conformed with mixing of fluvial and marine material unless perturbed by major anthropogenic sources as in the Humber. Solid-solution redistributions were revealed by following the partitioning of artificial radiotracers in a series of carefully controlled experiments in which salinity and suspended solids concentration gradients were simulated by mixing river and sea water end-member samples. Relationships between salinity and the solid:solution concentration of radiotracers as quantified by a distribution coefficient ( K Q ) indicated substantial desorption from particles of ^^®Cd and ^"^^Cs. conservative behaviour of ^ ^ Z n , and oxidative removal from solution of ^^Mn. Radiochemical techniques applied in situ to study solid-solution partitioning in the southern North Sea established a more significant role of particle composition (in particular, estuarine-derived versus plankton-rich material) in regulating trace metal behaviour in offshore waters. This finding was corroborated by distinct seasonal contrasts in measured particulate metal concentrations; whereas most metals (Fe, Mn. Cu, Pb, Zn) were enriched during winter when detrital and terrigenous components from fluvial/resuspension inputs dominate. Cd was elevated during summer in tandem with amplification of the biomass. These results provide a valuable basis for both future long-term pollutant monitoring programmes, and the conceptual development of estuarine chemical flux models, specifically the incipient Plymouth Marine Laboratory model of the Humber plume.