The legacy of industrial pollution in estuarine sediments: spatial and temporal variability implications for ecosystem stress

Kiri Rodgers, Ian McLellan, Tatyana Peshkur, Roderick Williams, Rebecca Tonner, Charles W. Knapp, Fiona L. Henriquez, Andrew S. Hursthouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


The direct impacts of anthropogenic pollution are widely known public and environmental health concerns, and details on the indirect impact of these are starting to emerge, for example affecting the environmental microbiome. Anthropogenic activities throughout history with associated pollution burdens are notable contributors. Focusing on the historically heavily industrialised River Clyde, Scotland, we investigate spatial and temporal contributions to stressful/hostile environments using a geochemical framework, e.g. pH, EC, total organic carbon and potentially toxic elements: As, Co, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn and enrichment indicators. With regular breaches of the sediment quality standards in the estuarine system we focused on PTE correlations instead. Multivariate statistical analysis (principle component analysis) identifies two dominant components, PC1: As, Cr, Cu, Pb and Zn, as well as PC2: Ni, Co and total organic carbon. Our assessment confirms hot spots in the Clyde Estuary indicative of localised inputs. In addition, there are sites with high variability indicative of excessive mixing. We demonstrate that industrialised areas are dynamic environmental sites dependant on historical anthropogenic activity with short-scale variation. This work supports the development of ‘contamination’ mapping to enable an assessment of the impact of historical anthropogenic pollution, identifying specific ‘stressors’ that can impact the microbiome, neglecting in estuarine recovery dynamics and potentially supporting the emergence of antimicrobial resistance in the environment.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Geochemistry and Health
Early online date22 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 May 2019


  • legacy pollution
  • sediments
  • metals
  • ecosystems
  • antimicrobial resistance


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