How U-Th series radionuclides have come to trace estuarine processes

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 8:15 AM
Thomas M Church, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, United States
Some forty years ago, the essence of estuarine processes was pioneered in terms of property-property (salinity) parameterization and end member mixing experiments. The result revealed how scavenging via “flocculation” of organic material such as humic acids affect primary nutrients and trace elements, many of pollutant interest. Defined in the Delaware are estuarine reaction zones, including one more “geochemical” in upper turbid areas and another more“ biochemical” in more productive photic zones of lower areas.

Since then, the natural U-Th radionuclide series have been employed to quantify estuarine transport and scavenging processes. Parent U appears negatively non-conserved during summer in estuarine and coastal waters, while that of Ra isotopes positively non-conservative dominated by a ground water end member. For both U and Ra, the biogeochemical influence of marginal salt marshes is significant. Indeed in the marsh atmospheric 210-Pb has become the metric of choice for the chronology of estuarine pollutant records. Using the more particle reactive isotopes in quantifying estuarine mixing processes (e.g. Th or Pb) proves to be fruitful in the Delaware and upper Chesapeake. While Th simply tracks that of particle abundance, both 210-Pb and 210-Po show differential scavenging with residence times of weeks to a month according to lithogenic and biogenic cycling processes, respectively.