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Historical trace element accumulation in marine sediments from the Tamaulipas shelf, Gulf of Mexico: An assessment of natural vs anthropogenic inputs

Celis-Hernandez, Omar, Rosales-Hoz, Leticia, Cundy, Andrew B., Carranza-Edwards, Arturo, Croudace, Ian W., Hernandez-Hernandez, Hector
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.622-623 pp. 325-336
adverse effects, anthropogenic activities, aquatic environment, barium, calcium oxide, chromium, copper, coral reefs, drilling, environmental impact, fisheries, heavy metals, hosts, lead, mangrove forests, marine ecosystems, marine sediments, oil fields, oils, petroleum, refining, seagrasses, sediment contamination, vanadium, zinc, zirconium, Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is considered one of the world's major marine ecosystems, supporting important fisheries and habitats such as barrier islands, mangrove forests, seagrass beds, coral reefs etc. It also hosts a range of complex offshore petroleum exploration, extraction, and refining industries, which may have chronic or acute impacts on ecosystem functioning. Previous work on the marine effects of this activity is geographically incomplete, and has tended to focus on direct hydrocarbon impacts, while impacts from other related contaminants (e.g. heavy metals, salt-rich drilling muds) which may be discharged from oil facilities have not been widely assessed. Here, we examine historical trace element accumulation in marine sediments collected from four sites in the Tamaulipas shelf, Gulf of Mexico, in the area of the Arenque oil field. Dated sediment cores were used to examine the sources, and historical and contemporary inputs, of trace metals (including those typically present in oil industry discharges) and their potential biological impact in the Tamaulipas aquatic environment over the last 100years. CaO (i.e. biogenic component) normalized data showed increasing V, Cr, Zn, Cu, Pb, Zr and Ba towards the sediment surface in three of the four cores, with Ba and V (based on an adverse effect index) possibly associated with adverse effects on organisms. Dated Ba/CaO profiles show an increase of 30–137% after opening of oil installations in the study area, and can be broadly correlated with increasing oil industry activities across the wider Gulf of Mexico. Data do not record however a clear enhancement of Ba concentration in sediment cores collected near to oil platforms over more distal cores, indicating that any Ba released from drilling platforms is incorporated quickly into the sediments around the drilling sites, and once this element has been deposited its rate of resuspension and mobility is low.Sediment core data from the Tamaulipas shelf show the influence of oil industry activities on selected trace element concentrations, with Ba/CaO broadly correlating with increasing oil industry activities across the wider Gulf of Mexico.