Anthropogenic markers in the Holocene stratigraphic sequence of the Gulf of Trieste (northern Adriatic Sea)

TitleAnthropogenic markers in the Holocene stratigraphic sequence of the Gulf of Trieste (northern Adriatic Sea)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsCovelli, S, Fontolan, G, Faganeli, J, Ogrinc, N
JournalMarine Geology
Date PublishedAug 2
Accession NumberWOS:000239467700003

The Gulf of Trieste is a shallow serni-enclosed marine basin in the northernmost part of the Adriatic Sea that has been affected by the relative rise in sea-level during the Holocene. The sedimentary sequences in three cores, ranging in length from 130 to 320 cm, were investigated through the variability in grain-size parameters, major (Al, Fe, S, N, Ca and Mg) and trace (Ti, Mn, Cr, Ni, Cu, Zn and Hg) elements, organic and inorganic C, delta C-13 and C-14 dating in order to obtain information on paleoenvironmental evolution and the historical development of heavy metal contamination. The potential sources of pollution are: urban sewage from nearly 400,000 inhabitants, industrial effluents, and 500 yr of Hg mining activity in the Idrija region (western Slovenia), located in the upper basin of the Isonzo river, the main freshwater input to the coastal zone. The conventional 14 C ages of bulk sedimentary OC in the basal part of the three cores were 9030 +/- 70 (GTI), 8270 +/- 50 (GT2) and 9160 +/- 120 (GT3) yr BP. An upward increase in highly negative delta C-13(org) values from the core bottoms indicates that lacustrine-swamp conditions in the study area were rapidly followed by a typical marine depositional environment. Cluster analysis performed on the geochemical data for all subsamples of the three cores identifies several groups with a clear stratigraphic meaning. Factor analysis of the data shows related element groups that can be interpreted as being related to, for instance, the natural contribution from alummosilicates and carbonates, from organic matter (peat) and the more recent anthropogenic "impact". Predicted natural linear relationships for metal-Al were obtained from the core subsamples and they can be used as a baseline to evaluate metal enrichments on a regional scale. Results show that more recent sediments in the central sector of the Gulf of Trieste are slightly enriched in Cu (max Enrichment Factor EF=2.1) and Zn (max EF=1.6), and noticeably contaminated by Hg (up to 23.32 mu g g(-1)) to a maximum depth of 90 cm and up to 60 times above the estimated regional background (0.13 mu g g(-1)). The Hg historical trend is well correlated with extraction activity at the Idrija mine, thus allowing indicative sedimentation rate estimation and tentative assessment of the rate of Hg accumulation in bottom sediments (from 1.77 to 31.49 mg m(-2) yr(-1) at the surface). The large inventory of Hg in the core GT2 appeared to be the result of proximity to the fluvial source, which is still active in supplying Hg to the coastal areas and makes the Gulf of Trieste one of the most Hg contaminated area in the whole Mediterranean basin. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.