Multiple assessments of trace metals in sediments and their response to the water level fluctuation in the Three Gorges Reservoir, China.


State Key Laboratory of Simulation and Regulation of Water Cycle in River Basin, China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, Beijing 100038, China; Department of Water Environment, China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, Beijing 100038, China. Electronic address: [Email]


Response of trace metals to the consecutive water level fluctuation in the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR) sediments remains unclear. Here, we evaluated the influence of consecutive stages of water level fluctuation on trace metal pollution using multiple analytical approaches. The spatio-temporal distributions of trace metals in TGR sediments were investigated for five consecutive water impoundment stages from 2015 to 2017. Anthropogenic contributions and trace metal stocks in the TGR were quantitatively estimated using a combination of a regional geochemical baseline (RGB) and annual sediment load. Results showed that trace metals were accumulated after the construction and impoundment of the TGR. However, after the TGR operated normally for more than five years, trace metals concentrations stabilized in sediments. Trace metal concentrations in the mainstream were slightly higher than those in the tributaries. In the mainstream, metal concentrations in the upstream were lower than those in the midstream and downstream except for Cd. Anthropogenic contributions of trace metals ranged from 8.51 to 24.86% and were highest for Hg and Cd. The sediment load was the main factor influencing trace metal stock in TGR sediments. Although the total Cd stock amount was relatively low, its potential ecological effects are of great concern due to its high mobile fraction percentages and toxicity. The RGB-based geo-accumulation index and potential ecological risk index showed that TGR sediments were uncontaminated, and were subject to low ecological risk from trace metals. This result differs from traditional assessment results, indicating that previous assessments may overestimate the ecological risks of the trace metals in the TGR. The health risks posed by trace metals bio-accumulated in fish, stemming from sediment resuspension, were assessed using an environmental impact assessment model. Results suggested that residents should not experience significant health risks from the intake of individual metals through fish consumption.


Consecutive water period,Environmental impact assessment model,Regional geochemical baseline,Sediments,Three Gorges Reservoir,Trace metal,