[Introduction] The mixing of riverwater and seawater in an estuary is accompanied by a large number of biogeochemical and physical processes which change the distribution, partitioning and bioavailability of contaminants. Superimposed particulates may take place, which cause deviations from the theoretical mixing curve between dissolved metal ions and salinity. Seasonal fluctuations and year-to-year variations in concentrations of trace metals must be considered in characterizing the importance of biogeochemical processes for the distribution of anthropogenic metals in estuaries. We undertook the present study to interpret the time and space variability of metal concentrations within the Elbe estuary and its relationship with physical and biogeochemical processes of metal distribution. The data also provided information on the role of particulate components in the distribution process.