Floodplain Effects On the Transport of Dissolved and Colloidal Trace Elements in the East Pearl River, Mississippi

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Marine Science


Substantial work suggests that floodplain wetlands could play a role in modifying fluvial fluxes of dissolved and colloidal trace elements. Yet, few studies have directly addressed this issue. We examined trace elements in the East Pearl River (Mississippi or Louisiana, USA), which is surrounded by wetlands that are temporally more or less connected to the river depending on river stage. Dissolved and colloidal trace element samples, along with ancillary data, including dissolved organic carbon and nutrients, were collected during eight surveys of this system at different flow stages from November 2007 to September 2008. Hydrology of the system is complex due to seasonal changes in water sources as well as potential inputs from the floodplain wetlands and the hyporheic zone. We therefore considered effects including nonconservative mixing of water sources, saltwater intrusion, and floodplain wetland flux requirements needed to support observed downstream concentration changes. During moderately high discharge, fluxes of many elements (e.g., Cd, Fe, Mn, and Zn) increased downstream by 20% or more, with inputs from the floodplain wetlands as the apparent source. At the highest discharge, however, wetland inputs to the river may have been rate-limited (i.e., the wetland source was flushed faster than biogeochemical processes could regenerate dissolved or colloidal material). At low discharge, other effects, including saltwater intrusion and hyporheic zone interactions, are important. Both redox processes and organic ligands (or dissolved organic carbon), along with the supply of wetland inputs (or removal) relative to river fluxes, appear to be key factors determining floodplain wetland effects. While the behavior of some elements suggests they were dominantly affected by redox processes (Mn and V) or by organic complexation (dissolved Fe and light rare earths), other elements were affected by more than one process in ways that remain obscure (Cu). Overall our results are broadly consistent with previous field, laboratory, and modeling studies and suggest that a better understanding of the sources and transformations of Fe is a key area for future research.

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Hydrological Processes





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