Rapid sedimentation exerts a pronounced influence on early sedimentary diagenesis in that there is insufficient time for a sediment particle to equilibrate in any one sediment layer before that layer may be displaced vertically by another layer. These sedimentation patterns are common in surface-water reservoirs whose sedimentation rates (1-10 cm yr-1) are several orders of magnitude greater than those for natural lakes (0.01-0.5 cm yr-1). Two examples of the effects of rapid sedimentation on geochemical metal signatures are presented here. Interstitial-water data (Fe) from two sites in the Cheyenne River Embayment of Lake Oahe on the Missouri River illustrate the effects of changing sedimentation rates on dissolved species. Rapid burial during high-flow yrs appears to limit early sedimentary diagenesis to aerobic respiration. Solid-phase metal data (Pb) from a site in Pueblo Reservoir on the upper Arkansas River in Colorado appear to record historical releases by flooding of abandoned mine sites upstream in Leadville, Colorado. Interstitial-water ammonia and ferrous Fe data indicate that at least one interval at depth in the sediment where solid metal concentrations peak is a zone of minimal diagenesis. The principal diagenetic reactions that occur in these sediments are aerobic respiration and the reduction of Mn and Fe oxides. Under slower sedimentation conditions, there is sufficient time for particulate organic matter to decompose and create a diagenetic environment where metal oxides may not be stable. The quasi-steady-state interstitial Fe profiles from Tidal Potomac River sediments are an example of such a situation. This occurs primarily because the residence time of particles in the surficial sediment column is long enough to allow benthic organisms and bacteria to perform their metabolic functions. When faster sedimentation prevails, there is less time for these metabolic reactions to occur since the organisms do not occupy a sediment layer for any length of time. Also, the quantity and quality of the organic matter input to the sediment layer is important in that reservoirs often receive more terrestrial organic matter than natural lakes and this terrestrial organic matter is generally more refractory than autochthonous aquatic organic matter.
Additional publication details
Geochemical effects of rapid sedimentation in aquatic systems: Minimal diagenesis and the preservation of historical metal signatures