Trace metals and their source in the catchment of the high altitude Lake Respomuso, Central Pyrenees

Zaharescu, Dragos G., Hooda, Peter S., Soler, Antonio P., Fernandez, Javier and Burghelea, Carmen I. (2009) Trace metals and their source in the catchment of the high altitude Lake Respomuso, Central Pyrenees. Science of the Total Environment, 407(11), pp. 3546-3553. ISSN (print) 0048-9697


Lake Respomuso is a dammed lake of glacial origin at 2200 m altitude in the Central Pyrenees. This study investigated the source of a number of trace elements (As, Cd, Co, Cu, Mn, Ni, Pb and Zn) in its catchment and their possible link to the local geology. Altogether 24 sediment and 29 water samples were collected from all major streams feeding the lake. The sediments were analysed for trace elements, major mineral components, minerals and organic matter whilst water samples were analysed for dissolved metal concentrations. The trace element levels in the catchment sediment and water were relatively high compared to other similar altitude sites, with concentrations in the headwaters being generally higher than in the lower basin because of the source being concentrated in these areas. The principal component analysis revealed that the source of sediment-bound trace elements in the Lake Respomuso catchment is geogenic, and originated possibly in the sulphide minerals from slate formations. Except at one site, none of the water samples exceeded the WHO drinking water guideline for arsenic. Arsenic in water was significantly correlated with its concentration in the sediments, possibly due to the oxidation of arsenic bearing minerals. The dissolved concentrations of all other trace elements were generally lower than the WHO drinking water guide values and they were not related to their sediment concentrations. The As, Cd, Ni contents in sediment from several catchment streams exceeded their sediment quality thresholds. This geogenic source may pose risk to the stability of fragile local biodiversity and to the wider environment in the valley bellow particularly if the metals are mobilised, possibly due to environmental change.

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