Sedimentary record of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in a sediment core from the Pearl River Estuary, South China

G. Q. Liu, G. Zhang, Xiangdong Li, J. Li, X. Z. Peng, S. H. Qi

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

136 Citations (Scopus)


Owing to the hydrodynamic and sedimentation conditions, the western shoal of the Pearl River Estuary (PRE) is known to be an important sink of terrestrial substances including particle-associated pollutants from the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region. In this study, we report the sedimentary record of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) during the 20thcentury in a sediment core from the western shoal of the PRE. The ∑PAH concentration ranged from 59 ng g-1to 330 ng g-1in the core with two distinct peaks. An initial increase of ∑PAH concentration was found around the 1860s. The amounts of PAHs remained relatively constant for roughly 100 years, followed by the first peak in the 1950s. Then, there was a decrease in PAH concentration and flux in the 1960s and 1970s. A sharp increase of PAH concentration was observed in the early 1980s with a maximum concentration in the 1990s. The PAH diagnostic ratios indicated that the PAHs in the sediment core were mainly of pyrolytic origin, and that atmospheric deposition and land runoff may serve as the important pathways for PAHs input to the sediment. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was used as an index of socioeconomic development in the PRD region, which was correlated positively with the changes of PAH concentration and flux in the sediment core. The rapid increase in vehicle numbers and energy consumption in the region in the last two decades may have contributed to the rapid PAH increase since the early 1980s. The results clearly elucidated the impact of regional economic development on the estuarine environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)912-921
Number of pages10
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number8-12
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2005


  • China
  • GDP
  • PAHs
  • Pearl river delta (PRD)
  • Sediment core

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution

Cite this