The main goal of this work is to distinguish anthropic and climatic influences in sediments from the lagoon of Aveiro (Portugal). This study is based on a core (240-cm long) collected in Murtosa Channel. Optical and X-radiographic images and high-resolution elemental profiles were acquired with ITRAX micro-X-ray fluorescence (XRF) core scanner. Samples collected at each ≈3 cm along the core were analysed for grain size and total organic carbon. Furthermore, the fine fraction of selected layers was subjected to geochemical analysis by ICP-MS, after total acid digestion of the sediments, and mineralogical analysis, by XRD techniques. A radiocarbon age was determined by AMS, using molluscs shells collected at a depth of 90 cm.
Sediments along the core are composed by fine and medium sand, with several mud layers. Sediments composing the first 100-cm may have been deposited after 1950, as it is indicated by the radiocarbon data, the increasing trend of Zn/Al, Pb/Al and Cu/Al and total concentrations of Zn, Pb, Cu, V, Cr, As and Ni in this interval that therefore might be linked with industrial activities of Chemical Complex of Estarreja. The progressive increase of Si/Al, Cl/Al, Rb/Al, K/Al and Br/Al and reduced Al concentrations, from the base to the top of this core, are interpreted as being related to higher marine influence and greater differences in tidal currents with longer exposition to air of the sediments with the consequent formation of brines favouring minerals precipitation in the area (e.g. anhydrite). These results seem to be a consequence of several works developed over time like: i) dredging to improve the navigation access to the harbour, located in the external sector of the lagoon; ii) the control of the course of some rivers influencing the supply of sediments. The tendency of sea level rise may have also emphasized the gradual increase of marine influence in this area. Fine-grained sections, related to an increase in Al, phyllosilicates, organic matter, pyrite and siderite contents would be attributed to phases of greater supply of fine-sediments during heavy rainfall events by the nearby Antuã river and other streams during negative phases of North Atlantic Oscillation. Higher deposition of organic matter enhanced diagenetic changes with pyrite and siderite formation. In the bottom of the core another record of pollution was unveiled to mining activities at the beginning of 20th century.