Net Flux of Heavy Metals Between Estuarine and Nearshore Environments: A Case Study of the Isipingo Estuary, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Document Type: Original Research Paper


1 Water Quality Management, Department of Water Affairs, PO Box 1018, Durban, 4000, South Africa

2 School of Agricultural, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville Campus, Durban 4000, South Africa

3 School of Chemistry and Physics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


This study examines the transport of seventeen heavy metals between the Isipingo Estuary and
the adjacent sea. Results demonstrate variability of fluxes in terms of prevalence, concentration and seasonality.
Summer neap and spring tides had approximately twice the number of heavy metals compared to winter and
spring seasons. Spring and winter seasons yielded higher concentrations and a greater number of metals on the
spring tides whilst autumn yielded the fewest metals on both tides. Export dominance characterized the
system and this was evident in the annual fluxes with 14 metals (Al, As, Ba, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Mo, Pb, Se, Sr,
Ti, V and Zr) being exported while 3 (Cu, Ni and Zn) were imported into the estuary over the four seasons,
pointing to potential contamination from marine sources. Whilst human utilization of the catchment is often
reported as the primary cause of degradation of the Isipingo Estuary, this study demonstrates that some of the
contamination may also originate from the nearshore environment.