Presence, levels and distribution of pollutants in the estuarine food web : Swartkops River Estuary, South Africa
Estuaries are among the most productive and diverse of aquatic habitats supporting a rich variety of plants and animals. They are nursery areas for many species of fish harvested by recreational and subsistence anglers. The Swartkops River Estuary (SRE) is situated approximately 10 km north-east of Port Elizabeth and the only major well-preserved estuary within a city, thus unique to South Africa. The SRE is surrounded by highly urbanized and industrialized regions in the Eastern Cape. The aim of this study was to determine and interpret the presence, levels, and distribution of selected priority pollutants in the food web of the SRE. Different components within the SRE were analysed for the presence of environmental contaminants. Seven sites were selected, some coinciding with previous studies in the SRE. Three of these sites are major discharge points that discharge directly into the estuary. Sediment, mud prawn, sand gobies, bird eggs, and various fish species were analysed. Samples were collected in the middle and lower reaches of the estuary, the areas known to receive major pollution loads from neighbouring sources. Heavy metals found in the sediments were compared to previous studies. Bottom sediments and organisms surrounding major discharge points showed higher concentrations of pollutants and compared to previous studies, these concentrations seem to be increasing. Due to biomagnification, higher concentrations were generally found in the top predators although certain elements did not show this trend. Some heavy metal concentrations found in the fish exceeded of the food guidelines and may in turn pose a threat for subsistence users of the SRE. There are indications of multiple different pollution sources. Bird eggs had detectable quantities of polychlorinated biphenyls, but its implications need more investigation.