Skip to main content

Sediment toxicity and heavy metals in the Kattegat and Skaggerak


Superficial (0 to 2 cm) sediments were sampled from 62 sites in Kattegat and Skagerrak during autumn 1989 and spring 1990, tested for toxicity to Daphnia magna and Nitocra spinipes (Crustacea) and analyzed for heavy metals (Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, N, Pb, Zn), nutrients (N and P) and organic carbon. Whole sediment toxicity to Nitocra spinipes, expressed as 96-h LC50, ranged from 1.8 to > > 32 percent sediment (wet wt), which is equivalent to 0.63 to 53 percent dry wt. Sediment total metal concentrations (mg kg-1 dry wt) ranged from 0.01 to 0.32 for Cd, 8 to 57 for Cr, 3 to 40 for Cu, 0.03 to 0.86 for Hg, 3 to 43 for Ni, 6 to 37 for Pb and 21 to 156 for Zn. Analyzed concentrations of heavy metals were tested for correlation with whole sediment toxicity normalized to dry wt, and significant correlations (Spearman p<0.05) were found for Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, and Ni. However, the analyzed concentrations of these metals were below the spiked sediment toxicity of these heavy metals to N. spinipes, except for Cr and Zn for which analyzed maximum concentrations approached the 96-h spiked sediment LC50s. There was no improvement in correlation between the sum of heavy metal concentrations normalized to their spiked toxic concentrations (Toxic Unit approach) and the whole sediment toxicity. Calculated heavy-metal-derived toxicity based on toxic units and whole sediment toxicity ranged from 0.1 to 24 (mean value 2.3 and SD 4.2). Theoretically, a value of 1.0 would explain whole sediment toxicity from measured metal concentrations using this approach. Thus, in spite of the fact that the total concentrations of the heavy metals were sufficient to cause toxicity based on an additive model for most of these sediments, the observed toxicity of the sediments from Kattegat and Skagerrak could not exclusively be explained by the concentrations of heavy metals, except for Cr and Zn at their maximum concentrations. Therefore, other pollutants than these heavy metals must also be considered as possible sediment toxicants.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Alabaster, J. S. & R. Lloyd, 1982. Mixtures of toxicants. In: Water Quality Criteria for Freshwater Fish, 2nd edn. pp. 253–314. Butterworths, London.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ankley, G. T., G. L. Phipps, E. D. Leonard, D. A. Benoit, V. R. Mattson, P. A. Kosian, A. M. Cotter, J. R. Dierkes, D. J. Hansen & J. D. Mahony, 1991. Acid-volatile sulfide as a factor mediating cadmium and nickel bioavailability in contaminated sediments. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 10: 1299–1307.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carlson, A. R., G. L. Phipps, V. R. Mattson, P. A. Kosian and A. M. Cotter, 1991. The role of acid-volatile sulfide in determining cadmium bioavailability and toxicity in freshwater sediments. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 10: 1309–1319.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cato, I. 1992. Sedimentundersökningar längs Bohuskusten 1990. Göteborgs och Bohusläns kustvattenkontroll. Sveriges geologiska undersökning, Rapporter och meddelanden nr 74. 97 pp. (In Swedish).

  • Dave, G., 1992a. Sediment toxicity in lakes along the river Kolbäcksan, central Sweden. Hydrobiologia 235/236: 419–433.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dave, G., 1992b. Sediment toxicity and heavy metals in eleven lime reference lakes of Sweden. Water, Air and Soil Pollution 63: 187–200.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dave, G. & E. Nilsson, 1994. Sediment toxicity in the Kattegat and Skagerrak. J. Aquatic Ecosystem Health 3: 193–206.

    Google Scholar 

  • DiToro, D. M., C. S. Zarba, D. J. Hansen, W. J. Berry, R. C. Swartz, C. E. Cowan, S. P. Pavlou, H. E. Alle, N. A. Thomas & P. P. Paquin, 1991. Technical basis for establishing sediment quality criteria for nonionic organic chemicals using equilibrium partitioning. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 10: 1541–1583.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kuijpers, A., B. Dennegard, Y. Albinsson & A. Jensen, 1993. Sediment transport pathways in the Skagerrak and Kattegat as indicated by sediment Chernobyl radioactivity and heavy metal concentrations. Mar. Geol. 111: 231–244.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lithner, G. 1989. Bedömningsgrunder för sjöar och vattendrag. Bakgundsdokument 2. Metaller. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Solna. 80 pp. (In Swedish with summary in English.)

    Google Scholar 

  • Luoma, S. N. 1977. Detection of trace contaminant effects in aquatic ecosystems. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 34: 436–439.

    Google Scholar 

  • MacDonald, D. D., 1993. Development of an approach to the assessment of sediment quality in Florida Coastal Waters. MacDonald Environmental Sciences Ltd., Laydsmith, BC, Canada, 133 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • North Sea Task Force, 1993. North Sea Subregion 8 Assessment Report. State Pollution Control Authority (SFT), Oslo, Norway. 79 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pavlou, S. P., 1987. The use of the equilibrium partitioning approach in determining safe levels of contaminants in marine sediments. In: K. L. Dickson, A. W. Maki & W. A. Brungs (eds), Fate and Effects of Sediment-Bound Chemicals in Aquatic Systems. pp. 388–412. Pergamon Press, Oxford.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peltier, W. H. & C. I. Weber, 1985. Methods for measuring the acute toxicity of effluents to freshwater and marine organisms. (3rd edn). U.S. Environ. Protect. Agency. EPA/600/4-85/013, App. E: 170–216.

  • SIS (Standardiseringskommissionen i Sverige), 1991. Determination of acute lethal toxicity of chemical substances and effluents to Nitocra spinipes (Boeck)—Static procedure. Swedish Standard SS 02 81 06. 17 pp. (In Swedish)

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Dave, G., Dennegård, B. Sediment toxicity and heavy metals in the Kattegat and Skaggerak. J Aquat Ecosyst Stress Recov 3, 207–219 (1994).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Key words

  • Kattegat
  • Skagerrak
  • sediments
  • toxicity
  • Daphnia magna
  • Nitocra spinipes
  • Crustacea
  • heavy metals