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Gray Silts of the Volga Reservoir Cascade: Main Features of Geochemistry


The main geochemical characteristics of gray silts of the Volga Reservoir cascade are discussed. Together with sandy varieties, they occupy more than 60% of the total bottom area in some reservoirs. Gray silt samples were taken in the first half of June 2016 during an expedition from the Borok Port to the Astrakhan Port on the R/V Akademik Topchiev. It is shown that the content of Ni, Cr, Y, and Sr in gray silts increases from the Rybinsk Reservoir to the Kuibyshev Reservoir, and gradually decreases downstream. On the contrary, the Ba and Zn contents remain almost unchanged downstream the reservoir cascade. Values of a number of indicator ratios (Cr/Th, Th/Sc, and others) behave approximately the same way. In general, the content of trace elements in the studied gray silt samples is lower than in the Post-Archean Australian Shale (PAAS). Hence, the grain size composition of gray silts and the PAAS is most likely somewhat different because of certain diluting effect of the nonclay component. Gray silts sampled from the Kama River mouth opposite the Atabaevo Settlement (station 39) are characterized by a significantly lower (La/Yb)N value than other samples studied in this work, indicating a fundamentally different (probably, Uralian?) source of the aluminosiliciclastic material in this sample.

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  1. In accordance with concepts in monograph (Zagryaznyayuschie veschestva …, 2017) and taking into consideration the administrative regionalization of the Upper Volga (UV) River basin, the UV basin extends from its sources to the Gorky Reservoir and the Oka River basin. The Middle Volga basin includes the catchment area downstream from the Gorky Reservoir to the Kuibyshev HEP site (including the Chebokasary Reservoir and Kama River basin). The Lower Volga basin includes the Saratov and Volgograd reservoirs, Volga-Akhtuba floodplain and Volga delta.

  2. Water discharge into the lower reaches of reservoirs provokes a significant change in the rate and level of flows, erosion of river bed and banks, as well as transport of terrigenous particulates into the main water area. In some places, the amount of autochthonous particulates produced by the washout of river bed in shallow sectors can be comparable with (and sometimes even exceed) the amount of material transported to the reservoir during the bank abrasion (Butorin et al., 1975).

  3. According to (Zakonnov et al., 2007), these sediments are represented mainly by the clayey–sandy silts.

  4. Note that the Cr content varies markedly in works of different researchers: for example, the BS content in the Kuibyshev Reservoir is ~85 ppm according to (Ekologicheski bezopasnoe ……, 2008), and just 59 ppm, according to (Tomilina et al., 2018).

  5. It is believed that the value Cr/Ni > 2.0 suggests a significant transformation of the fine-grained ultramafic terrigenous particulates during the transport (Garver et al., 1996).

  6. Note that this content is given most likely for the “BS in general,” since the above-cited work suggests: “The surficial BS layer was taken with three replications. The column height reached 7–10 cm. The central sample was mixed thoroughly. Then, large pebbles, plant remnants, and living and dead mussels were removed…”.


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The authors are grateful to the crew of R/V Akademik Topchiev, V.V. Zakonnov for help in the collection of samples, and N.S. Glushkova (Institute of Geology and Geochemistry, Ural Branch) for the layout of graphic materials in this paper.


The collection of samples and their preliminary processing were supported by the Russian Science Foundation (project no. 14-27-00114). Interpretation of the results was accomplished under State Task of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences (registration no. 0128-2021-0016) and the Geological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences.

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Correspondence to A. V. Maslov, I. A. Nemirovskaya or V. P. Shevchenko.

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Translated by D. Sakya

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Maslov, A.V., Nemirovskaya, I.A. & Shevchenko, V.P. Gray Silts of the Volga Reservoir Cascade: Main Features of Geochemistry. Lithol Miner Resour 57, 181–198 (2022).

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  • Volga River
  • reservoirs
  • gray silts
  • trace elements