Sources and timing of trace metal contamination to sediments in remote sealochs, NW Scotland

M.D. Krom, P. Carbo, S. Clerici, Andrew Cundy, I.M. Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sediment cores from a transect of sealochs, Etive, Sunart, Nevis, Duich, Broom and Torridon in N.W. Scotland were analysed for the trace metals lead, copper, and zinc. In addition, sediment cores from the Clyde Sea Basin (Loch Fyne, the Gareloch, Clyde dumpsite) and from the Irish and Celtic Seas were analysed as possible source areas for contaminated particles. The sediment cores were dated using excess 210Pb and 137Cs, and Al normalisation was used to correct for sediment compositional effects. All cores showed increased concentrations of all trace metals (and M/Al) towards the surface, with a maximum of 280–500% above background being observed in Loch Etive. Only cores from Duich and Torridon (Zn/Al and Pb/Al) and Etive (Zn/Al) did not continue to show an increase in trace metals to the uppermost samples. The burden of atmospherically derived trace metals accumulated over the past 100 years was compared with similar published burdens from a series of freshwater lochs adjacent to the sealochs. Plots of excess 210Pb (used to correct for sediment focusing) against atmospherically derived Pb showed a series of linear relationships of systematically decreasing gradient towards the north-west, away from potential urban sources of lead. It was calculated that 49% (15–77%) of the Pb but only 3% (1–4%) of the Zn and 2% (0–3%) of the Cu reached the sealochs from atmospheric sources. The remaining trace metals deposited in the sealochs came from marine particles. Using trace metal ratios as an indicator of pollutant provenance, it was shown that the trace metals came predominantly from the Irish Sea. There was no evidence of trace metals derived from the Firth of Clyde basin. It was concluded that trace metal contamination from the Clyde and the surrounding industrialised urban area was mainly deposited in the estuary and the Clyde Sea basin with its adjoining sealochs, such as the Gareloch and Loch Fyne
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-251
Number of pages13
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • sealoch sediments
  • tracemetals
  • atmospheric sources
  • marine sources


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