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American Journal of Environmental Sciences

Year: 2009  |  Volume: 5  |  Issue: 1  |  Page No.: 111 - 115

Seasonal Distribution of Organic Carbon in the Surface Sediments of the Terengganu Nearshore Coastal Area

S. Hasrizal, B.Y. Kamaruzzaman, I. Sakri, M.C. Ong and M.S. Noor Azhar


Problem statement: The distribution of organic carbon in the surface sediment is a crucial indicator for current productivity in the ocean especially in the nearshore area. The difference of organic carbon in the surface sediment reflects the influence of current movement on the bottom sediment. Approach: This study was carried out to oversee the difference of organic carbon distribution during pre and post-monsoon seasons. For the purpose of the study, 42 surface sediments in the Terengganu near shore area were collected and determined for organic carbon by using the wet dichromate acid method. Results: The concentration of organic carbon was significantly different between the seasons showing a relatively higher content during pre-monsoon seasons. In this study, the average concentration of organic carbon in pre-monsoon was 1.14±0.29% and varied from 0.60-1.80%. Meanwhile during post-monsoon seasons, the average concentration of organic carbon was slightly lower to 0.82±0.23% and ranged from 0.24-1.32%. Conclusion: Generally, the average concentration of organic carbon in South China Sea was low compared to the occurrence in riverine environment as well as the mangrove environment.

Fig. 1). The determination of organic carbon was determined using the wet dichromate acid method. For the organic carbon in the sediment, sediment were dried in an oven at 45°C and grounded in an agate mortar.

Fig. 1: Geographical position of 42 sampling stations in Terengganu coastal water

The samples were then sieved through a 63 μm, without dispersion agent, to avoid contamination of the samples. The sediment were then labeled and stored at room temperature for the laboratory analysis. The organic carbon in this study were determined using the total organic carbon analyzer, model TOC-V 5000/5050, Shimadzu, Japan. Briefly, about 20 mg sediment samples were weighted in the tin crucible sample boats and were burnt in the furnace for 30 min at temperature 900°C. The total organic carbon was then calculated by subtracting the Inorganic Carbon (IC) from the Total Carbon (TC) that was obtained from the total organic carbon analyzer. The precision assessed by replicate analyses was within 3%. The accuracy was also examined by analyzing, in duplicate a Reference Materials of glucose and the results coincided with the certified values within a difference of ±3%.


Little information is available on the organic carbon aspects of the Terengganu coastal and generally like most other coastal environments; their environmental characteristics such as the sediment characteristics and organic carbon content are much influenced by tidal rhythm and monsoon cycle. Their distributions are much dependent upon the combination of physical forces such as freshwater runoff, tidal currents and waves[8]. In this study, the organic carbon distribution in surface sediment for pre and post-monsoon season are shown in Fig. 2a and b. Their average concentration of organic carbon in pre-monsoon was 1.14±0.29% and varied from 0.60-1.80%. However, during post-monsoon the average of organic carbon concentration was observed to have relatively lower value with 0.82±0.23% and ranged from 0.24-1.32%. This was proven by the anova statistical analysis, where it shows a significant different (p<0.05) of organic carbon content between the sampling points and the both of pre and post monsoon seasons.


High organic carbon concentrations could be primarily caused by the river run-off, which seem to have been the main supply of organic matter into the coastal area. The organic carbon may also have been due to the activity of aquatic organisms, mainly photosynthetic and benthic organisms, which are reported to contribute to organic carbon adjacent to the estuary and nearshore area[9].

Fig. 2a: The distribution of organic carbon in Terengganu coastal water during the pre monsoon season

Fig. 2b: The distribution of organic carbon in Terengganu coastal water during the post monsoon season

This situation was obvious during the pre-monsoon season, where the highest concentration of organic carbon was observed surrounding the island which in between the Terengganu River and Merang River. However, after pre-monsoon season, organic carbon was entirely drifted away towards the open sea and apparently reduced the concentration of organic carbon in Terengganu water. Gao et al.[6] reported that the content of organic carbon varied from 0.2-0.3% in the SCS; this is comparable with to the variation of organic carbon in the Terengganu water between the pre-monsoon and post-monsoon season, which was about 0.3%. Marchand et al.[10] stated that the association of organic carbon in sediment is crucially dependent upon the grain size itself, whereby higher organic content will be represented in the finer particles and vice versa. Thus, low organic carbon concentration in the study area may be due to the sediment grain size which was dominated by moderately coarse sand.

The correlation between mean sediment size and organic carbon was positive for both during pre and post-monsoon, respectively. This indicates that organic carbon may indeed higher in the finer particles. Meanwhile, the post-monsoon season showed a slightly higher value of r-squared correlation sediment size and organic carbon concentration. This condition indicates that sediment mean size was relatively higher during the pre-monsoon season than in the post-monsoon season. Thus, it is shown that the seasonal change between south west and north east monsoon has influenced the sediment characteristics and the organic carbon concentration in Terengganu water. According to some researcher[11,12], in river and mangrove region, about 10-20% of organic carbon was found bonded to the finer particle (<4µm). Therefore, the low organic carbon content in Terengganu water might be due to the sediment grain size, which was about 250 µm on the average.


The concentration of organic carbon was particularly high in the coastal area of Terengganu and the area surrounding the Island. It is likely that the high concentration of organic carbon were due to the river outfall of organic matter from land run-off. Similarly, around the Island, organic carbon may be contributed from settlement around the island.


This research was funded from the Malaysian Ministry of Science under the Intensified Research for Priority Areas (IRPA). The authors wish to express their gratitude to the lab assistant of the Oceanography laboratory teams for their invaluable assistance and hospitality throughout the sampling period.

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