Differences in trace metal concentrations among fluvial morphologic units and implications for sampling

Ladd, S.C., Marcus, W.A. and Cherry, S

Environmental Geology, Vol. 36 Issue 3-4 pp. 259-270


This study examines the segregation of trace metals within and between fluvial morphologic units in sand-sized and finer bed sediments in a cobble bed stream. The types of fluvial morphologic units sampled are low gradient riffles, high gradient riffles, glides, eddy drop zones, lateral scour pools, attached bars, and detached bars. Three to nine samples were collected from ten of each type of morphologic unit. All 12 metals show significantly different concentrations between some morphologic units in sediments smaller than 2 mm. Eddy drop zones and attached bars consistently have the highest metal concentrations, while low gradient riffles, high gradient riffles, and glides typically have the lowest concentrations. Metals showing the greatest between-unit variability are Al, Cr, Fe, Cu, and Ti, followed by Co, Mn, and Pb, while Mg, Mn, V, and Zn display relatively few differences between units. Lateral and longitudinal variations of metals within units are not significant, and there was no consistent, predictable variation in metal concentrations with distance downstream. Results indicate that metal studies in other gravel- and cobble-bed streams should include a reconnaissance survey to determine variations between morphologic units, stratify sampling by morphologic unit, and analyze spatial autocorrelation to determine sample spacing.

Patrick Cross1998