Distribution of sterols and the sources of pollution in surface sediments of Ulungur lake, Xinjiang

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Domestic sewage discharged into lakes brings great pressure to the ecological environment. This study selected sediment from an inland lake as a research object to evaluate pollution of the environment. Eight sterols were used to evaluate the content of pollutants, while the ratios of sterols were used as the index to analyze the sources of pollution. The correlations were analyzed between sterols and total organic carbon (TOC), salinity and particle size. The distribution and composition of sterol compounds were determined in 12 surface sediment samples collected from Ulungur lake. The total concentrations of detected sterols in the sediments ranged from 1.3 to 36.3 μg/g.dw. The most abundant sterol detected was β-sitosterol (STI) with average concentrations of 2.6 μg/g.dw, followed by cholesterol (CHOE), stigmasterol (STIG) and stigmastanol (STAN). The concentration of coprostanol (COP) was between 0.03 and 1.66 μg/g.dw. Through correlation analysis, it was found that there was a significant correlation between fecal sterols and plant sterols. So the plant sterols shall not be neglected in evaluating the sources of pollution for their impact to identify the fecal sources. The study suggests that the composition and distribution of sterols in surface sediment provide useful information for environmental contamination monitoring and assessment in the inland lake.

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