Research Results of the
Department of Hydrogeology and Environment

Institute of Geology at the University of Würzburg, Germany
Environmental assessment, documentation and spatial modeling of heavy metal pollution along the Jordan Gulf of Aqaba using coral reefs as environmental indicator

Nedal M. Al Ouran

Two phases of reef sampling were carried out. The first included regular samples taken along the coastline of Aqaba (27km long) at depths of 4-15m, and used to determine spatial distribution of pollution. The second phase included three 20cm-deep cores obtained from within the industrial zone. These cores were drilled from pre-dated communities, where the growth rate was determined earlier to be 10mm y-1, therefore the core obtained represented a period of 20 years (i.e. 1980-2000). The cores were used to reconstruct the metal pollution history at the most heavily used site along the coast (industrial zone).All samples were examined with respect to their metal content of Cd, Pb, Cu, Zn, Ni, and Cr. Almost all of them have shown records above the calculated background values. Mean values of Cd, Pb, Cu, Zn, Ni and Cr recorded along the coast were 1,25; 4,26; 9,76; 11,40; 2,29 and 10,522, µg g-1 respectively, and for core samples 1.4; 4.2; 5.7; 6.4; 2.3 and 8.21 µg g-1 respectively. Spatial distribution of metal enrichment in reef samples have shown a general and clear increasing trend towards the south. Same increasing trend was also in core samples where the six metals have shown a prominent increasing trend towards the core surface indicating an increase of coastal activities during the last twenty years. High and relatively high values were recorded at the oil port, the industrial area and main port, and thus categorized as highly impacted areas. Intermediate metal content were recorded in samples of the north beach, and thus classified as being relatively impacted, where the lowest metal concentrations were observed at the marine reserve, the least impacted site along the coast. The high enrichment of metal is attributed mainly to anthropogenic impacts. The natural inputs of the six metals studied in the Gulf of Aqaba are generally very low, due to the geographic positions and the absence of wadi discharge and as a result of low rainfall. Several potential sources of heavy metals were investigated. The industrial-related activities, port operations and phosphate dust were among the main sources currently threatening the marine ecosystem in Aqaba. Applying the Principle Components Analysis method (PCA) to all samples taken along the coastline has resulted in categorizing three different groups according to their metal enrichment, the first is composed of samples taken from the north beach and the main port with intermediate to high enrichment, the second joined the samples of the marine park and the marine reserve with low and relatively low enrichment, and the last group joined samples of the industrial zone and the oil port with high enrichment. The Principle Component Scores were also utilized to confirm the spatial distribution and relationships of the examined heavy metals along the coast. Two models (interpolated by SURFER  7.0 and ArcView 3.2a) were developed, the first was based on the PC scores of the first component, and shows clearly the positive anomalies in metal concentrations along the coast. The second model was developed by plotting the second factor scores on a landuse map of Aqaba. According to these models, it has shown that the positive anomalies are associated with three different zones; industrial area, the main port and the oil port. The results have shown that coral reefs can be used as good environmental indicator for assessments and monitoring processes, and they can provide data and information on both the spatial distribution of pollution and their history. The present work is the first to document the environmental status along the whole coast of Aqaba and the first to use coral reef as a tool/ indicator.


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