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Dissolved trace element concentrations and fluxes in the Irrawaddy, Salween, Sittaung and Kaladan Rivers

Bridgestock, Luke; Henderson, Gideon M.; Holdship, Phil; Khaing, Aung Myo; Naing, Tin Tin; Myint, Tin Aung; Htun, Wint Wint; Khant, Win; Thu, Win Myo; Chi, Mo Aung Nay; Baronas, J. Jotautas; Tipper, Edward; Chapman, Hazel; Bickle, Mike


Luke Bridgestock

Gideon M. Henderson

Phil Holdship

Aung Myo Khaing

Tin Tin Naing

Tin Aung Myint

Wint Wint Htun

Win Khant

Win Myo Thu

Mo Aung Nay Chi

Edward Tipper

Hazel Chapman

Mike Bickle


The Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwaddy) and Salween (Thanlwin) globally rank among the largest rivers for supplying dissolved and particulate material to the ocean. Along with the Sittaung and Kaladan rivers they have societal importance to Myanmar in terms water sources and food production. Despite their importance for global biogeochemical cycles and the ~50 million people who live in their catchments, the chemistry of these rivers is poorly known. This study presents a comprehensive survey of dissolved (<0.22 μm) trace element concentrations (Sr, Fe, Al, Ba, Mn, V, Rb, Cu, Zn, As, Li, Ni, Mo, Cr, U, Pb, Sb, Co, Cs, Tl and Cd) at 38 locations within these river catchments, spanning a period of 2 years. The results highlight the global importance of the Irrawaddy and Salween rivers for trace element global biogeochemical cycles; contributing between 1 and 17 % of global dissolved riverine fluxes to the land-ocean interface for the studied elements. Area normalized dissolved fluxes in these catchments are ~2 to 10 times higher than global average values for most elements, consistent with high rates of chemical weathering. In general, anthropogenic activities have yet to significantly perturb dissolved trace element fluxes in these river systems. The presented dataset should therefore serve as a useful ‘natural’ baseline, against which future perturbations driven by climate change and/or the development of Myanmar's mining industry could be assessed. Exceptions to this include As in the Sittaung River and Sb, Zn, Pb and As in the Salween River, which may already be significantly impacted by anthropogenic inputs. The former represents a water quality issue of concern for public health, and so constraining the exact sources of As in the Sittaung River should be considered a priority for future research.


Bridgestock, L., Henderson, G. M., Holdship, P., Khaing, A. M., Naing, T. T., Myint, T. A., …Bickle, M. (2022). Dissolved trace element concentrations and fluxes in the Irrawaddy, Salween, Sittaung and Kaladan Rivers. Science of the Total Environment, 841, Article 156756.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 13, 2022
Online Publication Date Jun 17, 2022
Publication Date Oct 1, 2022
Deposit Date Dec 19, 2023
Journal Science of The Total Environment
Print ISSN 0048-9697
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 841
Article Number 156756
Keywords Pollution; Waste Management and Disposal; Environmental Chemistry; Environmental Engineering
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