Distribution and morphological abnormalities of recent foraminifera in the Marano and Grado Lagoon (North Adriatic Sea, Italy)

Melis R., Covelli S., 2013. Distribution and morphological abnormalities of recent foraminifera in the Marano and Grado Lagoon (North Adriatic Sea, Italy). Meditarranean Marine Science, 14/1, 432-450.
The Marano and Grado Lagoon, is a northern Adriatic wetland system of relevant naturalistic and economic value that is constantly under quality control in accordance with the current environmental directives. The benthic foraminifer community with its morphological abnormalities was investigated in the recent sediments (about 10 years old) of 21 stations; the samples were collected within the framework of the “MIRACLE” Project, which aimed at testing the coexistence of clam farming with high Hg contamination. Euryhaline foraminifers, well known in Mediterranean brackish-waters, mainly characterize the total assemblage. Ammonia tepida dominates in areas characterized by low salinity, high clay and organic carbon content, but is also subjected to anthropogenic pressure. Elphidium gunteri and Haynesina germanica are recorded in the western sector of the lagoon, which is more affected by salinity variations and agricultural activities. Slightly higher values of assemblage diversity appear in less restricted areas of the lagoon or, at least, where physical parameters such as temperature and salinity are less variable. The test abnormalities, carried out on total assemblage, show that the FAI (Foraminiferal Abnormality Index) values always exceed 1% of the total assemblage, with clear decreasing gradients from inland to the sea (from N to S) and from W to E in the studied area.

Anthropogenic markers in the Holocene stratigraphic sequence of the Gulf of Trieste (northern Adriatic Sea)

Covelli S., Fontolan G., Faganeli J., Ogrinc N., 2006. Anthropogenic markers in the Holocene stratigraphic sequence of the Gulf of Trieste (northern Adriatic Sea). Marine Geology, 230 (1-2), 29-51.
The Gulf of Trieste is a shallow semi-enclosed marine basin in the northernmost part of the Adriatic Sea that has been affected by the relative rise in sea-level during the Holocene. The sedimentary sequences in three cores, ranging in length from 130 to 320 cm, were investigated through the variability in grain-size parameters, major (Al, Fe, S, N, Ca and Mg) and trace (Ti, Mn, Cr, Ni, Cu, Zn and Hg) elements, organic and inorganic C, δ13C and 14C dating in order to obtain information on paleoenvironmental evolution and the historical development of heavy metal contamination. The potential sources of pollution are: urban sewage from nearly 400,000 inhabitants, industrial effluents, and 500 yr of Hg mining activity in the Idrija region (western Slovenia), located in the upper basin of the Isonzo river, the main freshwater input to the coastal zone. The conventional 14C ages of bulk sedimentary OC in the basal part of the three cores were 9030±70 (GT1), 8270±50 (GT2) and 9160±120 (GT3) yr BP. An upward increase in highly negative δ13Corg values from the core bottoms indicates that lacustrine-swamp conditions in the study area were rapidly followed by a typical marine depositional environment. Cluster analysis performed on the geochemical data for all subsamples of the three cores identifies several groups with a clear stratigraphic meaning. Factor analysis of the data shows related element groups that can be interpreted as being related to, for instance, the natural contribution from aluminosilicates and carbonates, from organic matter (peat) and the more recent anthropogenic “impact”. Predicted natural linear relationships for metal-Al were obtained from the core subsamples and they can be used as a baseline to evaluate metal enrichments on a regional scale. Results show that more recent sediments in the central sector of the Gulf of Trieste are slightly enriched in Cu (max Enrichment Factor EF=2.1) and Zn (max EF=1.6), and noticeably contaminated by Hg (up to 23.32 μg g−1) to a maximum depth of 90 cm and up to 60 times above the estimated regional background (0.13 μg g−1). The Hg historical trend is well correlated with extraction activity at the Idrija mine, thus allowing indicative sedimentation rate estimation and tentative assessment of the rate of Hg accumulation in bottom sediments (from 1.77 to 31.49 mg m−2 yr−1 at the surface). The large inventory of Hg in the core GT2 appeared to be the result of proximity to the fluvial source, which is still active in supplying Hg to the coastal areas and makes the Gulf of Trieste one of the most Hg contaminated area in the whole Mediterranean basin.

Sedimentary record of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the Gulf of Trieste (Northern Adriatic Sea)

Heath E., Ogrinc N., Faganeli J., Covelli S. 2006. Sedimentary record of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the Gulf of Trieste (Northern Adriatic Sea). Water, Air & Soil Pollution: Focus 6 (5-6), 605-614.
To reconstruct a history of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) pollution in the Gulf of Trieste, one of the largest urbanized areas in the Adriatic Sea, we analyzed three long sediment cores collected between 1996 and 1997. Concentrations of total PAHs, the sum of 16 PAH compounds and six of their methylated analogues, in all three cores show a decrease from 600–800 ng g−1, at the surface, to levels below 250 ng g−1 in deepest layers (down to 3 m). The same trend was shown with separate representative pyrogenic PAHs (pyrene, benzofluoranthene and phenanthrene). Using Hg as a recent geochronological tracer, we observe an increasing input of PAHs since the beginning of the 20th Century and, especially, after the Second World War coinciding with increasing industrialization and urbanization of the region. This correlation is supported by PAH ratios that are indication of combustion processes and represent a marker for anthropogenic inputs. No correlation exists between PAHs and black carbon within the core profiles, indicating two different fractions of the ‘black carbon continuum’.