Aquatic Geochemistry

, Volume 19, Issue 5–6, pp 501–516 | Cite as

Silica Mass-Balance and Retention in the Riverine and Estuarine Scheldt Tidal System (Belgium/The Netherlands)

  • Vincent CarbonnelEmail author
  • Jean-Pierre Vanderborght
  • Lei ChouEmail author
Original Paper


An annual budget for dissolved silica (DSi) and biogenic silica (BSi) was constructed for the Scheldt estuary and for the entire riverine and estuarine Scheldt tidal system (Belgium/The Netherlands) using previously published silica concentrations and fluxes for the period 2003–2005. The annual estuarine DSi mass-balance was established, based on seasonal fluxes estimated using measured DSi concentrations and (fully transient) model simulations of conservative transport. The annual BSi mass-balance was deduced from measured BSi contents in the suspended particulate matter and annual mud fluxes taken from the literature. The Scheldt estuary acted as a net sink not only for the BSi carried by the tidal river as well as that produced by diatoms in the estuary, but also for large amounts of BSi imported from the coastal zone. This results in the retention of dissolved and biogenic silica higher than that of DSi alone, which is in contrast with the classical consideration that rivers act as a source of BSi for the coastal zone. DSi and silica (DSi + BSi) retentions amounted to, respectively, 28 and 64 % in the estuary, and 33 and 66 % in the entire tidal system. This study highlights thus the predominant role of the estuary in the entire Scheldt tidal system when dealing with silica dynamics, as well as the importance of including BSi when investigating estuarine silica retention.


Dissolved silica Biogenic silica Silica budget Silica mass-balance Silica retention Scheldt estuary 



(Particulate amorphous) biogenic silica


Dissolved silica (silicic acid)


Suspended particulate matter



We are grateful to Marie Lionard, Pierre Regnier, Damien Cardinal and Koenraad Muylaert for their comments on previous versions of the manuscript. This study was financed in the framework of the SISCO project by the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO) under contract number EV/11/17A. Additional fundings were provided by the Belgian French Community (convention number FRFC 2.4579.04) and by the TIMOTHY project financed by BELSPO (Interuniversity Attraction Pole, IAP 6/13). This is also a contribution to the FP7 GEOCARBON project (Contract No. 283080) funded by the European Union. Finally, we would like to dedicate this work to Fred Mackenzie who conducted the pioneering work on the weathering and diagenesis of silicate minerals.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Service de Biogéochimie et Modélisation du Système Terre—Océanographie Chimique et Géochimie des Eaux, Département des Sciences de la Terre et de l’Environnement, Faculté des SciencesUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Geography DepartmentPeking UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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