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Sources, Distribution and Behavior of Major and Trace Elements in a Complex Karst Lake System

Abstract

Sources and distribution of major and trace elements were investigated in the Plitvice Lakes, a pristine cascade hydrological system of sixteen karst lakes situated in a sparsely populated area of the central Croatia. Water and surface sediment samples from 17 locations, including springs, tributaries and lakes, were analyzed for the content of 22 elements by high-resolution inductively coupled mass spectrometry. Principal component analysis of the collected data set showed that different springs and tributaries displayed distinct multielemental compositions, reflecting primarily the differences in their corresponding geological backgrounds. It was shown that the springs situated in the Upper and Middle Jurassic dolomite bedrock represented the main source of several trace elements, including some toxic metals (Cd, Zn, Ni and Tl), to the Plitvice Lakes system. The concentrations of most of the trace elements (Mn, Fe, Al, Cd, Zn, Cu, Ni, Pb, Co, Cr and Tl) showed decreasing spatial trends in the downstream direction, from sources to the lakes. Such a distribution was interpreted to be a consequence of an efficient removal of the dissolved elements in the lentic parts of the system, mainly by co-precipitation with authigenic calcite and Mn oxides. Nevertheless, most of the elements in the lake sediments were highly correlated with Al, which indicated their prevalent association with terrigenic material. It was shown that the multicascade system of the Plitvice Lakes had an enhanced autopurification efficiency regarding the elimination of most of the trace metals from the aqueous phase.

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Acknowledgments

The work was supported by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sport of the Republic of Croatia. Financial support from the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the project “Mitigation of environmental consequences of the war in Croatia—risk assessment of hazardous chemical contamination” is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Nevenka Mikac.

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Dautović, J., Fiket, Ž., Barešić, J. et al. Sources, Distribution and Behavior of Major and Trace Elements in a Complex Karst Lake System. Aquat Geochem 20, 19–38 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10498-013-9204-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10498-013-9204-9

Keywords

  • Major elements
  • Trace metals
  • Water
  • Sediment
  • Plitvice Lakes
  • Autopurification