Seasonal variation and mobility of trace metals in the beach sediments of NW Borneo
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Miri city has a dynamic coastal environment, mainly influenced by intensive sedimentation from the Baram River and excessive trace metal loading by the Miri River, which are significant environmental concerns. As the mobility, bioavailability, and toxicity of the trace metals in the sediments are largely controlled by their particulate speciation, the modified BCR sequential extraction protocol was applied to determine the particulate speciation of trace metals in the coastal sediments of Miri, to unravel the seasonal geochemical processes responsible for known observations, and to identify possible sources of these trace metals. The granulometric analysis results showed that littoral currents aided by the monsoonal winds have influenced the grain size distribution of the sediments, enabling us to divide the study area into north-east and south-west segments where the geochemical composition are distinct. The Cu (>84%) and Zn (82%) concentrations are predominantly associated with the exchangeable fraction, which is readily bioavailable. Pb and Cd are dominant in non-residual fractions and other metals viz., Fe, Mn, Co, Ni, and Cr are dominant in the residual fraction. Using Pearson's correlation and factor analysis, the major mechanisms controlling the chemistry of the sediments are identified as association of Cu and Zn with fine fraction sediments, sulphide oxidation in the SW segment of the study area, atmospheric fallout of Pb and Cd in the river basins, precipitation of dissolved Fe and Mn supplied from the rivers and remobilization of Mn from the coastal sediments. Based on various pollution indices, it is inferred that the coastal sediments of NW Borneo are contaminated with Cu and Zn, and are largely bioavailable, which can be a threat to the local aquatic organisms, coral reefs, and coastal mangroves.
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