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Fate and source distribution of organic constituents in a river-dominated tropical estuary


We investigated spatial and temporal changes in the quality of sedimentary organic matter and trophic status of the Cochin estuarine system, southwest coast of India. Sediment samples were collected in five sampling campaigns from January 2009 to April 2010. TOC/N ratio implied mixed input of autochthonous as well as remarkable allochthonous terrestrial higher plant debris into the sedimentary system. More depleted δ 13C values at riverine and industrial zone suggested a major contribution of terrestrial higher plant debris to sedimentary organic matter. Trophic status of the estuary changed seasonally to eutrophic via oligotrophic and mesotrophic conditions during the period January 2009 to April 2010. The protein to carbohydrate ratio was lower (<1), indicating heterotrophic nature and the higher lipid to carbohydrate ratio (>1) denoted preservation of lipid compounds in the sediments. Correlation analyses provide evidence of the association of chlorophyll pigments with carbohydrates and account for the highly productive nature of the estuary and algal contributions to organic matter. Canonical correspondence analysis clearly illustrated prominence of phaeopigments in fishing zone, lipids in sewage/tourism influenced zone, carbohydrates in riverine zone and proteins in industrial zone. It also indicated the influence of sedimentary texture, pH and organic carbon to the distribution of biochemical constituents.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support given by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Govt. of India and also thank the Head, Department of Chemical Oceanography, School of Marine Sciences, Cochin University of Science and Technology for providing facilities. The authors express their heartfelt gratitude to Associate Editor and anonymous reviewers for their scientific encouragement and constructive comments that improved the paper.

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SALAS, P.M., SUJATHA, C.H. & RATHEESH KUMAR, C.S. Fate and source distribution of organic constituents in a river-dominated tropical estuary. J Earth Syst Sci 124, 1265–1279 (2015).

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  • Sediments
  • quality
  • organic matter
  • biochemical components
  • trophic status