Trace element concentrations have been measured in soil and sediment samples taken from the Thua Thien Hue (TT-H) Province and the Tam Giang–Cau Hai (TG–CH) Lagoon in 2002 and 2004. Results show that the lagoon is only slightly contaminated by elements such as Ag, Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn, whereas As, probably naturally enriched in this Asian region, reaches values above the lowest internationally accepted sediment quality guidelines. Concentrations in soils are ascribable to natural sources and distributions in the TG–CH Lagoon are mainly influenced by river inputs, with Ag and Cd undergoing estuarine desorption processes. However, concentration–depth profiles of most trace elements in sediments show a recent increasing trend that might be linked to the economic development of the area. The comparison of porosity and 210Pb depth profiles (confirmed also by Cd and As) from repeated samplings of the same core locations in the TG–CH Lagoon seems to account for a loss of 5–10 cm of surficial sediment that took place during the time interval between the two samplings. It is hypothesized that extreme meteorological events (e.g. a major typhoon that hit the area in November 2003) could be responsible for such sediment displacement.
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