Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 1150–1167 | Cite as

Geochemistry of stream sediments within the reclaimed coastal floodplain as indicator of anthropogenic impact (River Neretva, Croatia)

  • Damir Kralj
  • Davor Romic
  • Marija RomicEmail author
  • Neven Cukrov
  • Marina Mlakar
  • Jasminka Kontrec
  • Delko Barisic
  • Sinisa Sirac
Soil Pollution and Remediation



This study used multi-element signatures of stream sediments to assess both natural and human-induced impact on fluvial system in the River Neretva delta receiving environment over time. The river basin actually comprises several sub-catchments, and the geochemical features of major elements, trace metals radiometric and mineralogical characterisation of river bed sediments were used to assist the interpretation of the environment of deposition and its subsequent modifications caused by various anthropogenic pressures within the river basin.

Materials and methods

Five sites were chosen for sediment sampling at key locations within the study area with assumed undisturbed, continuous sedimentation process. At each of the sites, three representative cores were taken by scuba divers. Sample sites were selected in order to reflect the influence of different sub-catchments they belong to and the land-use pattern of the surrounding area. Samples were analysed for pH, redox-potential, granulometry, mineralogy, thermogravimetry, major and trace element concentrations and radionuclide activities. The univariate and multivariate statistics were applied. The geochemical normalisation of data was done using Al, the procedure based on calculation of the regression line of the metal on the normaliser followed by testing the ratios metal/normaliser on all data-points.

Results and discussion

All studied sediments are classified as silt, ranging from clayey silt to silt and sandy silt. Mineralogically, the sediments were dominated by carbonates and quartz. The chemical contaminant data are generally of good quality, mostly below guideline levels. Sedimentation rates were estimated using vertical distribution of 137Cs activities. Normalisation of TMs done by using Al shows strong R 2 adj values for the regressions of Al and V, Al and Cr, and Al and Ni. However, Al cannot fairly explain the fluctuation of the concentrations of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in sediment cores from all of the sampling sites. Generally, inorganic scavengers such as clay minerals followed by Fe and Mn oxides and S (pyrite and gypsum) seem to be dominant factors controlling TMs in studied sediments.


Although the River Neretva delta occupies a rather small area, the geochemical features of major and trace elements and 137Cs activities show complex sediment provenances. Each of the sampling sites reflect exactly different effects of anthropogenic intervention that particularly refer to the changes in river morphology and ecology, along with the altered flow regimes within the catchment on sediment loads and quality.


Environmental pollution Major and trace elements Normalisation Principal component analysis Radionuclides dating 



This study was supported by Croatian Waters (Hrvatske vode dd), project “Physical-chemical and geological characterisation of River Neretva sediment”, contract number 03-5007/1-2009, and The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia, projects 178-1782221-2039 and 178-1782221-0350. Their support is greatly appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Damir Kralj
    • 1
  • Davor Romic
    • 2
  • Marija Romic
    • 2
    Email author
  • Neven Cukrov
    • 1
  • Marina Mlakar
    • 1
  • Jasminka Kontrec
    • 1
  • Delko Barisic
    • 1
  • Sinisa Sirac
    • 3
  1. 1.Rudjer Bošković InstituteZagrebCroatia
  2. 2.University of Zagreb Faculty of AgricultureZagrebCroatia
  3. 3.Hrvatske vodeZagrebCroatia

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