A Review of Factors Influencing Measurements of Decadal Variations in Metal Contamination in San Francisco Bay, California
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- FLEGAL, A.R., CONAWAY, C.H., SCELFO, G.M. et al. Ecotoxicology (2005) 14: 645. doi:10.1007/s10646-005-0016-6
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This review summarizes some of the principal results of systematic measurements of trace metal concentrations throughout San Francisco Bay that began in 1989, and that have yielded insights on the factors controlling temporal and spatial variations of those concentrations on seasonal to decadal time scales. Pronounced seasonal variation in some metal concentrations is associated with gradients in the system’s hydrology and the diagenetic remobilization of metals from benthic sediments. Additional temporal variation is associated with interannual differences in hydrologic flushing (e.g., ENSO cycles) and episodic storm events. While intra- and inter-annual variabilities complicate assessments of long-term variations in metal concentrations, recent analyses using stable lead isotopic composition distributions and time-series models have deconvoluted decadal changes in lead and silver concentrations in the estuary. Decadal variations in concentrations of other contaminant metals (e.g., mercury) are now being characterized, as well as projections of future concentrations of other metals of concern (e.g., copper). These historic assessments and projections of trace metal variations attest to the importance of long-term, systematic monitoring programs to quantify past and future impacts on water quality in San Francisco Bay and other complex estuarine systems.