The distribution of heavy metals (Pb, Zn, Cd and As) in sediments of the Pearl River Estuary was investigated. The spatial distribution of heavy metals displayed a decreasing pattern from the turbidity maxima to both upstream and downstream of the estuary, which suggested that suspended sediments played an important role in the trace metal distribution in the Pearl River Estuary. In addition, metal concentrations were higher in the west part of the estuary which received most of the pollutants from the Pearl River. In the sediment cores, fluxes of heavy metals were consistent with a predominant anthropogenic input in the period 1970-1990. From the mid-1990s to the 2000s, there was a significant decline in heavy metal pollution. The observed decline has shown the result of pollution control in the Pearl River Delta. However, it is noteworthy that the metal concentrations in the most recent sediment still remained considerably high. Taken together, the enrichment of heavy metals in sediments was largely controlled by anthropogenic pollution. © 2012 The Research Centre for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
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