The Great Salt Lake (GSL) is a unique ecosystem in which trace element activity cannot be characterized by standard geochemical parameters due to the high salinity. Movement of selenium and other trace elements present in the lake bed sediments of GSL may occur due to periodic stratification displacement events or lake bed exposure. The water column of GSL is complicated by the presence of a chemocline persistent over annual to decadal time scales. The water below the chemocline is referred to as the deep brine layer (DBL), has a high salinity (16.5 to 22.9%) and is anoxic. The upper brine layer (UBL) resides above the chemocline, has lower salinity (12.6 to 14.7%) and is oxic. Displacement of the DBL may involve trace element movement within the water column due to changes in redox potential. Evidence of stratification displacement in the water column has been observed at two fixed stations on the lake by monitoring vertical water temperature profiles with horizontal and vertical velocity profiles. Stratification displacement events occur over periods of 12 to 24 h and are associated with strong wind events that can produce seiches within the water column. In addition to displacement events, the DBL shrinks and expands in response to changes in the lake surface area over a period of months. Laboratory tests simulating the observed sediment re-suspension were conducted over daily, weekly and monthly time scales to understand the effect of placing anoxic bottom sediments in contact with oxic water, and the associated effect of trace element desorption and (or) dissolution. Results from the laboratory simulations indicate that a small percentage (1%) of selenium associated with anoxic bottom sediments is periodically solubilized into the UBL where it potentially can be incorporated into the biota utilizing the oxic part of GSL.
Additional publication details
Selenium and trace element mobility affected by periodic displacement of stratification in the Great Salt Lake, Utah