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The effect of a dam on the copper accumulation in estuarine sediment and associated nematodes in a Mekong estuary

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Dam construction across the main flow of an estuary can greatly contribute to a high accumulation of inorganic contaminants. However, it remains unknown to what extend externally available heavy metals are incorporated into biota living in those contaminated environments. In this study, the heavy metal copper was investigated both in the sediment and in the tissues of nematodes taken from the subtidal zone in the Ba Lai estuary where a dam is present, and compared with samples from the dam-free Ham Luong estuary, both part of the Mekong Delta. Samples were taken in the dry season of 2017 in four stations in the Ba Lai estuary with two stations in the downstream part from the dam and two upstream. Similar locations with respect to the distance were sampled in the dam-free estuary. The internal copper concentration in nematodes was measured by applying micro X-ray fluorescence. The results showed that both internal and sediment copper concentrations were different between the two estuaries and among estuarine sections. The highest copper concentration in nematodes was found in the upstream section of Ba Lai estuary where the greatest accumulation of sedimentary copper was observed, while the dammed downstream part was lowest in internal copper accumulation. Moreover, there was more variation in the copper levels between the two sections within the dammed estuary compared to those in Ham Luong. These observations might point to the contribution of the Ba Lai dam to the increase of copper contaminants in the benthic environment leading to accumulation in nematodes.

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We would like to express our thankfulness to VLIR-UOS for supporting the funding for this research. We deeply appreciate the support from the Marine Biology lab and the XMI group, Department of Chemistry of UGent, the Department of Environmental Management and Technology in Institute of Tropical Biology–Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, and the Department of Analytical Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, University of Science–Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City during the research time.


This research is funded by VLIR-UOS project: “Environmental and socio-economic impact after dam construction for local communities in the Mekong estuarine system: the case of the Ba Lai estuary” and “Effect of Greenhouse gases produced during organic matter accumulation in a dam area in the Mekong.”

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All authors have equally contributed to the conceptualization of the idea and the methods used; data acquisition (sampling and samples processing and measurement), N.T.M.Y., T.T.T., N.X.Q, N.V.D, B.L., and L.M.; statistical analysis and data interpretation, N.T.M.Y., A.V., L.L., LM, and N.X.Q.; project administration, A.V. and N.X.Q.; writing original draft, N.T.M.Y and A.V; all authors have substantially contributed for writing review and editing; all authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Quang Ngo Xuan.

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Nguyen Thi MY, Y., Vanreusel, A., Mevenkamp, L. et al. The effect of a dam on the copper accumulation in estuarine sediment and associated nematodes in a Mekong estuary. Environ Monit Assess 194 (Suppl 2), 772 (2022).

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