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Characterization of suspended particulate matter in the Moselle River (Lorraine, France): evolution along the course of the river and in different hydrologic regimes



Suspended particulate matter (SPM) plays an important role in the transport and fate of contaminants in the environment. To better understand the relationships between contaminants and SPM, SPM properties, and their variations with flow regime, river size, land use, and season should be considered.

Materials and methods

The grain size distribution, elemental composition, and mineralogy of SPM from different stations along the Moselle River (Lorraine, France) were investigated at the particle scale during different flow regimes. The resulting data were compared with the elemental composition of the dissolved compartment to understand the role of particles in element transport.

Results and discussion

The grain size distribution, elemental composition, and mineralogy of SPM along the Moselle River and during different flow regimes showed only slight variations, except for the Fensch and Orne tributaries, two rivers that were impacted by inherited steel-making industrialization and different land use. In the Moselle River, SPM mainly consisted of clay minerals, while in Fensch and Orne Rivers, SPM mainly consisted of multiple types of anthropogenic particles. The diffuse urbanization gradient was hardly recognized based on the Trace Metal Element (TMEs) content in the river SPM, while the rivers impacted by the steel industries had greater TME contents. Finally, the TME content in the Moselle SPM was more strongly influenced by water flow than by the position of sampling on the linear reach of the Moselle River. The partitioning of TMEs in the particles and water at the main Moselle station (Frouard) revealed that SPM predominantly contributed to TMEs transport.


This study confirmed that catchment geology greatly contributed to the SPM composition in the mean-sized rivers. In addition, the high anthropogenic pressure could be deciphered for small tributaries. Furthermore, this study allowed us to observe the high contribution of particles to TMEs and Rare Earth Element (REEs) transportation.

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This study was performed in the context of the Zone Atelier Moselle (ZAM), which belongs to the French LTER network, and was financially supported by CNRS-INEE and Region Lorraine (CPER). The authors greatly acknowledge Julie Vereecke, Clarisse Balland, Manel Khedri, Elise Rotureau, and Fabrice Fraysse for their contributions to this work (field sampling essentially and publication reading). In addition, the authors would like to thank SARM-CRPG for chemical analyses.

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Correspondence to Mathieu Le Meur.

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Responsible editor: Rajith Mukundan

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Le Meur, M., Montargès-Pelletier, E., Bauer, A. et al. Characterization of suspended particulate matter in the Moselle River (Lorraine, France): evolution along the course of the river and in different hydrologic regimes. J Soils Sediments 16, 1625–1642 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-015-1335-8

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  • Suspended Particulate Matter Flow regime
  • Moselle River
  • Clay particles Trace metal elements
  • Urbanization gradient