Lead concentration and isotope chronology in two coastal environments in Western and South East Asia
Abstract:Lead is a trace metal that is closely related to anthropogenic activity, mainly via leaded gasoline and coal combustion. The study of lead concentrations and isotopes in seawater, sediments, corals and aerosols allows for a systematic look at its sources and their time evolution in a natural environment. We will discuss results from two projects in Western and South East Asia, regions that have seen dramatic socio-economical changes over the past half-century that may have left environmental signals. These results highlight the usefulness of the method, indicate the degree of complexity of these systems, and point to the need for a continuous monitoring of anthropogenic trace metals in the small-medium coastal scale to be able to asses the larger scale effects of human activity.
On the one hand, coastal Kuwait is heavily influenced by the Shat al-Arab river and shows a clear anthropogenic signature from Kuwait city. A mix of two sources can be tracked through the coral and sediment chronological records, with Pb206/Pb207 ratios (1.202 and 1.151) that approach the suspected source values (1.21 and 1.12) and eliminate the possibility of other sources. Through a wide sediment geographic distribution, the strength of the anthropogenic signature is modulated.
On the other hand, Singapore offers a more complex system, where an apparent mix of two sources (extreme isotope ratios 1.215 and ~1.14) occurs also, but where either an unresolved potentially important third source (isotope ratio ~1.18), or an isotope exchange process should be invoked. The sediment and coral records allows us to track the changes through time; however, there seems to be incongruence with the aerosol isotope record. Further potential sources are being explored currently and will be discussed.