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Sediment distribution and accumulation in lagoons of the Southern Mediterranean Region (the MELMARINA Project) with special reference to environmental change and aquatic ecosystems

Flower, R. J., Appleby, P. G., Thompson, J. R., Ahmed, M. H., Ramdani, M., Chouba, L., Rose, N., Rochester, R., Ayache, F., Kraiem, M. M., Elkhiati, N., El Kafrawy, S., Yang, H., Rasmussen, E. K.
Hydrobiologia 2009 v.622 no.1 pp. 85-112
Bacillariophyta, aquatic environment, carbonates, combustion, ecosystems, fossil fuels, geographic information systems, lakes, landscapes, metals, monitoring, organic matter, particulates, radionuclides, sediment contamination, sediments, shell (molluscs), temporal variation, Egypt, Mediterranean region, Morocco, Tunisia
Surface sediments and sediment cores were collected from coastal lagoons and lakes located in the Southern Mediterranean Region (SMR) as part of the MELMARINA Project which involved integrated eco-hydrological monitoring and modelling. This study uses surface sediments and sediment cores to infer spatial characteristics and temporal changes at the MELMARINA primary sites, Merja Zerga in Morocco, Ghar El Melh in Tunisia and Lake Manzala in Egypt. In addition, surface sediment sampling was undertaken at Egyptian Lake Bardawil and sediment cores were collected from the Lagune de Nador (Morocco). Sediment distribution patterns are investigated using GIS with georeferenced sample locations to facilitate display and resurvey. Major variations in sedimentary organic matter and, particularly, carbonate content, occur within and between sites. Local landscapes combined with hydrological and biogeochemical processes influence the distributions of sediment bulk components (carbonates, organic material and clastic matter) and molluscan shells and shell debris are an important source of sedimentary carbonate at all three primary sites. Sediment cores were dated using natural (²¹⁰Pb) and artificial (¹³⁷Cs) radionuclides, and sediment accumulation rate changes indicate that sources of sediment supply varied markedly through the twentieth century but have generally diminished after the mid-1960s. Sedimentary siliceous microfossils (diatoms) were generally poorly preserved, but mollusc shell remains were well represented. Sediment chronologies and sediment bulk composition allow discussion of some recent changes in bulk, minerogenic and biogenic sediment accumulation patterns in the SMR lagoons. Sediment accumulation rates also varied between sites and multiple cores from Lake Manzala indicated that rates showed considerable spatial variability. Low-level sediment contamination by fossil fuel combustion particulates and trace metals was demonstrated for Ghar El Melh and Lagune de Nador where Pb and Zn accumulation rates were highest in twentieth century sediment. It is emphasized that sediment quality and quantity have strong influences on lagoon ecosystem function and sedimentation is relevant to hydromorphology and to concepts of ecological quality.