journal article

Occurrence and Temporal Variation of Technology-Critical Elements in North Sea Sediments - A Determination of Preliminary Reference Values


As interest in the investigation of possible sources and environmental sinks of technology-critical elements (TCEs) continues to grow, the demand for reliable background level information of these elements in environmental matrices increases. In this study, a time series of ten years of sediment samples from two different regions of the German North Sea were analyzed for their mass fractions of Ga, Ge, Nb, In, REEs, and Ta (grain size fraction < 20 µm). Possible regional differences were investigated in order to determine preliminary reference values for these regions. Throughout the investigated time period, only minor variations in the mass fractions were observed and both regions did not show significant differences. Calculated local enrichment factors ranging from 0.6 to 2.3 for all TCEs indicate no or little pollution in the investigated areas. Consequently, reference values were calculated using two different approaches (Median + 2 median absolute deviation (M2MAD) and Tukey inner fence (TIF)). Both approaches resulted in consistent threshold values for the respective regions ranging from 158 µg kg−1 for In to 114 mg kg−1 for Ce. As none of the threshold values exceed the observed natural variation of TCEs in marine and freshwater sediments, they may be considered baseline values of the German Bight for future studies.
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