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Dynamics of trace metals in a shallow coastal ecosystem: insights from the Gulf of Gabès (southern Mediterranean Sea)

1 Aix Marseille University. Université de Toulon, CNRS, IRD, MIO UM 110, 13288, Marseille, France
2 Laboratoire de Génie de l’Environnement et de l’Ecotechnologie, ENIS, Université de Sfax, BP 1173, 3038 Sfax, Tunisie
3 Laboratoire des Bioprocédés Environnementaux, Centre de Biotechnologie de Sfax, Route de Sidi Mansour km 6, PO Box 1177, 3018 Sfax, Tunisie

Coastal areas are sites of discharge of anthropogenic compounds, such as trace metals. In seawater, trace metals have a strong affinity for particulate organic matter or clay mineral and tend to accumulate in sediments. However, natural events and human activities can cause disturbances in surface sediments involving modification of chemical balances and contamination of surrounding waters. Here, we investigated the dynamics of trace metals in the Sfax coastal area (Gulf of Gabès, southern Mediterranean Sea), a shallow coastal ecosystem impacted by tides and submitted to urban/industrial effluents. We presented the spatial distribution of trace metals concentrations, their potential mobility in sediments and evaluated the potential sources of target elements in surface waters. The highest concentration levels in surficial sediments (3.51 µg/g) and surface waters (0.25 µg/L) were found for Cd. The latter showed a great affinity (50%) for the exchangeable phase while other elements (Cu, Cr and Ni) were found in most residual phases, reducing the environmental risk. Pb and Zn, associated Fe/Mn oxyhydroxides revealed potential inputs from urban and industrial effluents. Multivariate statistical analysis suggested that dissolved trace metals in surface waters were probably derived from effluents/wadis but also from sediment resuspension processes, induced by natural (tides, hydrodynamics) or anthropogenic (dredging) events. Overall, this study highlights the importance of the interactions between sediment and water column for the trace metal dynamics in very shallow coastal environments with an exacerbated pattern for Cd.
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Keywords trace metals; Gulf of Gabès; Mediterranean sea; sediment resuspension; environmental risk

Citation: Sandrine Chifflet, Marc Tedetti, Hana Zouch, Rania Fourati, Hatem Zaghden, Boubaker Elleuch, Marianne Quéméneur, Fatma Karray, Sami Sayadi. Dynamics of trace metals in a shallow coastal ecosystem: insights from the Gulf of Gabès (southern Mediterranean Sea). AIMS Environmental Science, 2019, 6(4): 277-297. doi: 10.3934/environsci.2019.4.277


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