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Charles Gobeil, Bjørn Sundby and Norman Silverberg (1981)

Factors influencing particulate matter geochemistry in the St. Lawrence estuary turbidity maximum

Marine Chemistry, 10(2):123-140.

635 samples of suspended particulate matter (SPM), collected in the St. Lawrence river and estuary during periods of high and low river flow from a series of individual and anchor stations on a transect traversing the turbidity maximum zone, as well as two sediment box cores, were analyzed for Al, Si, Ca, Mg, Fe and Mn. An abrupt change in elemental composition occurs when traversing the front at the landward edge of the turbidity maximum. As the SPM concentration increases across the front from 20–200 mg l−1, the Ca/Al and Mg/Al ratios of the SPM increase and the Si/Al, Fe/Al and Mn/Al ratios decrease. The almost 50\% decrease of the Mn/Al ratio is not related to changes in salinity. Within the turbidity maximum the tidal-averaged Si/Al, Ca/Al, Mg/Al and Fe/Al ratios of the SPM do not differ significantly from the landward to the seaward end of the turbidity zone, but on one tidal station the ratios of Si, Ca and Fe to Al are significantly lower at high river flow than at low flow. The Mn/Al ratio is insensitive to the extreme variations of either salinity (0.6–30‰) or SPM concentrations (10–480 mg l−1) within the turbidity zone. A tendency for higher Mn/Al ratios to be associated with near-bottom SPM, observed in the center of the turbidity zone during the low river flow period, is well developed in the lower reaches of the zone. Diagenetic mobilization within the rare fine-grained bottom sediments of the turbidity maximum is responsible for changes in Mn and Fe content of particulate matter, and early settling of coarse-grained components and size sorting within the zone are responsible for other compositional changes. Local sources, desorption and precipitation are apparently of secondary importance. The depletion of both Mn and Fe in the SPM and sediment of the upper estuary implies a net seaward escape of diagenetically mobilized metal.



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