Environmental Geology

, Volume 52, Issue 4, pp 789–802 | Cite as

Historical analysis of heavy metal pollution in three estuaries on the north coast of Galicia (NW Spain)

  • F. LorenzoEmail author
  • A. Alonso
  • M. J. Pellicer
  • J. L. Pagés
  • M. Pérez-Arlucea
Original Article


This research focuses on the development of metal pollution in sediment cores from three estuaries in Northwest Spain: Viveiro, Ortigueira and Barqueiro. Pb, Cu, Co, Cr, Cd and Zn and total organic carbon were assessed using principal component analysis (PCA) in order to obtain background values, measure pollution levels and identify pollution sources. Results were interpreted by considering the local industrial history, grain size and C/N relationship. The pollution levels obtained bear a strong resemblance to those documented for of a moderately industrialised area. PCA identifies factors that reflect mainly temporal associations with metals. Sedimentation rates between 0.9 and 1.1 cm/year were determined. In Viveiro core levels of Cr pollution are associated with tanneries. In Ortigueira, high core levels of Cu and Co are linked to mining, and Cr levels to adjacent ultramafic rocks. Erosion of Holocene sediment causes high values of Co and Cr in the Barqueiro core. Cu increase in the three estuaries is related to fungicide use since 1910. Sea level rise appears to be affecting the marine characteristics of the sediments in Barqueiro. In Viveiro, the nature of the sediment reflects engineering work and land reclamation.


Metals Cores PCA Background values Estuaries NW Spain 



This work was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science project CGL2004–00048/BTE, and is a contribution to the IGCP Project Nr 495, Quaternary Land–Ocean Interactions: Driving Mechanisms and Coastal Responses. We are very grateful to Dr. J. Alonso Azcárate who improved the document with his comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Lorenzo
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. Alonso
    • 1
  • M. J. Pellicer
    • 2
  • J. L. Pagés
    • 1
  • M. Pérez-Arlucea
    • 3
  1. 1.Sección Ciencias de la Tierra. Facultad de CienciasUniversidade de A CoruñaCoruñaSpain
  2. 2.Facultad de Ciencias GeológicasUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain
  3. 3.Facultad de Ciencias del Mar.Universidade de VigoVigoSpain

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