Application of a Sediment Quality Index for the assessment and monitoring of metals and organochlorines in a premier conservation area
Smit, Nico J.
Van Vuren, Johan H.J.
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The physical and chemical characteristics of surface sediments from a leading conservation area, namely the Kruger National Park, were determined in order to identify potential stressors in the systems that may contribute to overall deterioration in sediment quality within the reserve, leading to potential threats to the aquatic biota conserved within these stretches of river. Sediment samples were collected during four surveys (two low flow and two high flow) from 2009 to 2011. Samples were analysed for organic content, grain size determination, metals and various organochlorine pesticides. Results indicated that the Olifants River sediments did not show any great improvement over the years and point towards the continued input of pollutants into this system. Sediment quality in the Luvuvhu and Letaba Rivers is better than that of sediments from the Olifants River in terms of metals, but metal concentrations are still comparable and point towards anthropogenic inputs of metals into these rivers. Even though the data indicate that these systems are being contaminated with both metals and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), levels were still below contaminated sediments from around the globe. Sediment Quality Index scores showed that the sediment quality of these rivers is in a relatively good state. High metal concentrations were the drivers behind lowered sediment quality, and in some cases certain OCPs played a role. Both metals and OCP concentrations were highly correlated with finer grain sizes. Sediment assessments are not routinely applied in South Africa resulting in very little reference or background data available for the area. The metal concentrations for the study area were generally lower than those for other studies in more polluted regions. The study also contributes to the available knowledge on surrounding metal pollution in riverine sediments in South Africa