Contamination assessment of arsenic and heavy metals in a typical abandoned estuary wetland—a case study of the Yellow River Delta Natural Reserve

Zhenglei Xie, Zhigao Sun, Hua Zhang, Jun Zhai
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 2014, 186 (11): 7211-32
Coastal and estuarine areas are often polluted by heavy metals that result from industrial production and agricultural activities. In this study, we investigated the concentration trait and vertical pattern of trace elements, such as As, Cd, Ni, Zn, Pb, Cu, and Cr, and the relationship between those trace elements and the soil properties in coastal wetlands using 28 profiles that were surveyed across the Diaokouhe Nature Reserve (DKHNR). The goal of this study is to investigate profile distribution characteristics of heavy metals in different wetland types and their variations with the soil depth to assess heavy metal pollution using pollution indices and to identify the pollution sources using multivariate analysis and sediment quality guidelines. Principal component analysis, cluster analysis, and pollution level indices were applied to evaluate the contamination conditions due to wetland degradation. The findings indicated that the concentration of trace elements decreased with the soil depth, while Cd increases with soil depth. The As concentrations in reed swamps and Suaeda heteroptera surface layers were slightly higher than those in other land use types. All six heavy metals, i.e., Ni, Cu, As, Zn, Cr, and Pb, were strongly associated with PC1 (positive loading) and could reflect the contribution of natural geological sources of metals into the coastal sediments. PC2 is highly associated with Cd and could represent anthropogenic sources of metal pollution. Most of the heavy metals exhibited significant positive correlations with total concentrations; however, no significant correlations were observed between them and the soil salt and soil organic carbon. Soil organic carbon exhibited a positive linear relationship with Cu, Pb, and Zn in the first soil layer (0-20 cm); As, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn in the second layer (20-40 cm); and As, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn in the third layer (40-60 cm). Soil organic carbon exhibited only a negative correlation with Cd (P < 0.05), in the second and third layers. As, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn exhibited lower geoaccumulation index values (I geo values), which averaged less than 0 in the three soil layers, this finding indicates that the soils have remained unpolluted by these heavy metals. The mean concentrations of these trace elements were lower than Class I criteria. The degradation wetland restoration suggestions have also been provided in such a way as to restore the reserved flow path of the Yellow River. The results that are associated with trace element contamination would be helpful in providing scientific directions to restore wetlands across the world.

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