An examination of estuaries in Argentina is expected to give clues to the environmental damage caused by industrialisation.
Researchers at Plymouth University are conducting a four-year investigation into the characteristics of two important Argentinian estuaries to help scientists assess the impact of industrial development in the area.
The project, which has a Pounds 1,000 grant from the European Commission, should also improve understanding of some of Britain's more prominent estuaries, such as the West Country's River Tamar.
The Argentinian estuaries - the Quenquen Grande and the Rio Gallengos - are facing rapid industrialisation, and developers and environmentalists want to know how this is likely to effect the flow, discharge of salt, silt and other material, and water quality.
The research team, led by Keith Dyer, professor of oceanography at Plymouth's Institute of Marine Studies, will work with Gerado Perillo of the Instituto der Oceanografia in Bahia Blanca, Ar-gentina, to apply results of fieldwork and data-gathering to mathematical models of the estuaries.
In this way they will be able to predict flows and levels of contamination. Professor Dyer will be assisted by research fellow Mark Ripley and Reg Uncles, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory which will provide added back-up with its estuarine simulation model.
Professor Dyer said the Argentian estuaries, long narrow inlets formed by the partial submergence of a river valley, were in many ways similar topographically to river features in Britain.
"However, the Argentine estuaries are virtually unresearched, and their capacity for coping with the effects of industrial development - such as effluent inputs and siltation as a result of channel dredging - is unknown," he said.