Accumulation rates of heavy metals (Cd, Cr, Cu, Mn, Pb, and Zn) retained in wetland sediments in northwest Indiana-downwind of the Chicago-Gary-Hammond industrial area-are quantified to assess anthropogenic influences on atmospheric fluxes. Metal concentrations for 22 sediment cores are determined by ICP-AES after ashing and strong acid extraction. Relations between organic content and metal concentrations at depth are used to separate natural and anthropogenic sources. Accumulation rates over the lifetime of the wetlands (???4500 years) have averaged 0.2 (Cd), 1.4 (Cu), 1.7 (Cr), 13.4 (Mn), 4.8 (Pb), and 18.7 (Zn) mg m-2 y-1. Rates for the last 100 years have increased on average by factors of 6 (Cd), 8 (Cu), 10 (Mn), 15 (Pb), and 30 (Zn), remaining effectively constant for Cr. Where the wetlands have been drained, metals have been lost from the sediments, owing to changes in organic content and local hydrochemistry (exposure to acidic rainfall). Sediment-based accumulation rates at the undrained sites are higher, though generally consistent, with measured and modeled atmospheric fluxes documented by short-term studies conducted over the last three decades. The fraction of the total metals in the wetlands estimated to be of anthropogenic origin ranges from approximately 3% for Cr, up to approximately 35% for Pb, and 70% for Zn. This historic legacy of contamination must be considered in land management decisions, particularly when wetlands are drained.
Additional publication details
Accumulation rates of airborne heavy metals in wetlands