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Spatial variation of heavy metal contamination in the riparian sediments after two-year flow regulation in the Three Gorges Reservoir, China

Bing, Haijian, Wu, Yanhong, Zhou, Jun, Sun, Hongyang, Wang, Xiaoxiao, Zhu, He
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.649 pp. 1004-1016
anthropogenic activities, cadmium, chromium, copper, geomorphology, heavy metals, humans, lead, nickel, pollution, riparian areas, risk, sediments, toxicity, urban areas, watersheds, zinc, China
Regular impoundment of the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR) with intensified human activities in the watershed imparts a significant effect on the environmental changes in the riparian zone. In this study, six heavy metals (Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn) in the riparian sediments of the entire TGR mainstream were investigated in 2014 and 2016 to identify their contamination and risk characteristics and decipher the main factors for the variation of the metal contamination. The results showed that the concentrations of the heavy metals in the sediments did not vary significantly between 2014 and 2016, and their contamination degrees decreased in the order of Cd> > Cu ≈ Zn > Pb > Cr ≈ Ni in 2014 and Cd> > Zn > Cu ≈ Pb > Cr ≈ Ni in 2016. The potential eco-risk of Cd was extremely high in the two years, while the eco-risk of other metals was very low. The sediments showed a moderate to high contamination level, a high potential eco-risk but a low toxic risk to aquatic biota in the two years. Spatially, the contamination and risk levels of heavy metals were relatively higher in the downstream TGR region in 2014 except for the sites close to the urban areas but in the upper-middle TGR region in 2016. Increasing anthropogenic influence contributed to the high contamination and risk levels of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in the upper-middle region in 2016. The results indicated that the Cd contamination in the riparian sediments of the TGR was still a vital environmental issue, and the decreased sediment inputs from the upstream major tributaries, the periodic and anti-seasonal flow regulation, local geomorphological characteristics and anthropogenic activities determined the contamination distribution of heavy metals in the riparian sediments.