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Multiple Factors Influence the Accumulation of Heavy Metals (Cu, Pb, Ni, Zn) in Forest Soils in the Vicinity of Roadways

  • Kupka, Dawid1
  • Kania, Mateusz1
  • Pietrzykowski, Marcin1
  • Łukasik, Adam2
  • Gruba, Piotr1
  • 1 University of Agriculture in Krakow, Al. 29 Listopada 46, Krakow, 31-425, Poland , Krakow (Poland)
  • 2 Polish Academy of Sciences, M. Sklodowskiej-Curie St. 34, Zabrze, 41-819, Poland , Zabrze (Poland)
Published Article
Water Air & Soil Pollution
Publication Date
Apr 30, 2021
DOI: 10.1007/s11270-021-05147-7
Springer Nature


Intensified vehicular traffic causes increased heavy metal contamination of the environment. We investigated the heavy metal chemistry of soils located under silver fir stands in the vicinity of Poland’s S7 roadway. Three sampling sites were located in fir stands in central Poland. Fieldwork included soil sampling of the organic (O) horizon and mineral (A) topsoil. We analyzed the soil pH, carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) concentration, and the HCl-extractable forms of sodium (Na) and heavy metals: copper (Cu), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb), and zinc (Zn). The stoichiometric ratios Cu:C, Ni:C, Pb:C, and Zn:C were also calculated. In all sites, a higher Na concentration was found in the 0–10 m from the forest edge. This zone was characterized by increased pH in the O horizon, increased Zn and Ni in the A horizon, and a decreased Pb in the O horizon. There was no clear pattern for the Cu concentration. The Ni:C and Zn:C ratios were correlated with pH, while Pb:C and Cu:C ratios were correlated with the clay minerals. HCl-extractable Ni and Zn concentrations in A horizon were greater near the roadway, revealing strong pH dependency. The roadway affects the geochemical background of the topsoil in the nearby fir stands. Mechanistically, we suggest that Na increases the soil pH and therefore enhances the ability of soil organic matter to bind Ni and Zn by releasing hydrogen from soil organic matter functional groups into the soil solution. A depleted Pb near the road was likely owing to the strong competition from Na.

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