Contrasting dynamics of suspended particulate matter in different freshwater ecosystems: Implications for water quality management

Magdalena Grove, Gary Bilotta, C. Harrison, Christopher Joyce, C. Peacock

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Particulate matter, ranging from nano-scale particles to sand-sized sediments, is regarded as one of the most common causes for water quality impairment globally. Particulate matter (PM) can have a range of detrimental impacts on freshwater ecosystems and ultimately can lead to a significant decline in the associated ecosystem services; which are estimated to have a global value in excess of $1.7 trillion per annum. As such it is crucial that PM is monitored and managed effectively in order to avoid these detrimental impacts. However, there is currently very little scientific evidence as to what should be regarded as an appropriate PM exposure for different freshwater ecosystems. Existing international water quality guidelines for PM are often blanket values, not reflecting the specific requirements of the ecosystems for which they are designed to protect, and not recognising the natural temporal variations in PM concentrations caused by naturally discontinuous geomorphological processes. In this paper, we present PM data collected from high-resolution monitoring in ten contrasting reference-condition (i.e. minimal anthropogenic disturbance and high ecological status), temperate river ecosystems. The results show that there are significant differences in the PM exposures that are experienced in contrasting river ecosystems that are in reference condition. Median concentrations ranged from <1 mg L-1 to 19 mg L-1, and maximum concentrations ranged from 42 mg L-1 to 377 mg L-1. The PM dynamics of different ecosystems are compared via detailed concentration-frequency analyses, and a series of multivariate statistical models are developed from these analyses, in order to predict the reference-condition concentration-frequencies for a given site, based on the environmental characteristics of the site's upstream catchment. This approach has high potential for use as a tool by water quality managers; guiding them as to what PM concentrations they should be aiming to achieve in order to support good ecological status for a given environment-type, across a range of hydrological conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012
EventAmerican Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting December 2012 - San Francisco, California, 2012
Duration: 1 Dec 2012 → …


ConferenceAmerican Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting December 2012
Period1/12/12 → …


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