Impact of human activities on the central Mediterranean offshore: Evidence from Hg distribution in box-core sediments from the Ionian Sea

Rossella Di Leonardo, Adriana Bellanca, Massimo Angelone, Marcella Leonardi, Rodolfo Neri

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Total Hg concentrations have been measured for five box-core sediments collected seawards of the Augusta industrial area (SE Sicily). In more coastal sediments, upcore increasing Hg concentrations, exceeding the Hg background concentration estimated for the Strait of Sicily, indicate Hg contamination over time due to the industrial area development. Strong correlation between total organic C (TOC) and Hg concentrations was found only for core BX2, that displays organic C to total N (C/N) ratios indicative of autochthonous organic matter. For other sediments, high Hg enrichment factors with respect to TOC indicate, in addition to Hg trapping by TOC, other factors as responsible for Hg accumulation. In the presence of some contribution of detrital organic matter, Hg is mainly adsorbed onto the mineral component of the bottom sediments probably because TOC is saturated by Hg excess. Contaminant impact affected also the open sea environment. Main drivers of Hg flux towards the offshore were dredged materials, which repeatedly discharged sediment, resulting in substantial increases in TOC contents and high C/N ratios. Consistent with the geochemistry of recent turbidites, these anomalous sedimentary inputs induced sediment redox environment modifications, constrained by Mn peaks, which affected Hg distribution. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3756 - 3766
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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