Surface sediments and sediment cores collected at the Pearl River Estuary (PRE) and its surrounding coastal area were analysed for total metal concentrations, chemical partitioning, and Pb isotopic compositions. The distribution of Cu, Cr, Pb, and Zn demonstrated a typical diffusion pattern from the land to the direction of the sea. Two hotspots of trace metal contamination were located at the mixed zone between freshwater and marine waters. The enrichment of metals in the sediments could be attributed to the deposition of the dissolved and particulate trace metals in the water column at the estuarine area. The similar Pb isotopic signatures of the sediments at the PRE and its surrounding coastal area offered strong evidence that the PRE was a major source of trace metals to the adjacent coastal area. Slightly lower (206)Pb/(207)Pb ratios in the coastal sediments may indicate other inputs of Pb in addition to the PRE sources, including the inputs from Hong Kong and other parts of the region.
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