Critical loads of acidity have been used by the UNECE Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution for the development of protocols to control the emissions of acidifying pollutants. Since soil acidity has an effect on the mobilisation of heavy metals in the environment, it is important to understand the relationships between acidity and heavy metal pollution. This paper examines the relationships between soil acidification and heavy metal (cadmium, copper, lead and zinc) concentrations in topsoils and in stream sediments. It makes use of published heavy metal data and two indices of acidification: soil pH and soil acidity critical loads. For cadmium and zinc, a general increase in the ratio of stream sediment to toposil metal concentrations is seen with a decrease in soil pH and soil acidity critical loads. This demonstrates that where soils are more acidic and acid sensitive the metal concentration in the stream sediments is greater relative to that in the topsoil, suggesting mobilisation of these metals under acid conditions. Results for copper are similar but the relationship weaker. However, for lead the ratios tend to decrease with a decrease in pH and critical loads suggesting that where soils are more acid, lead remains in the soil rather than being mobilised into streams and precipitating onto stream sediments. This reflects the association between soil lead concentrations and soil organic matter content, which tends to be greater in acidic, peaty soils.
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- The Relationship Between Topsoil and Stream Sediment Heavy Metal Concentrations and Acidification
J. R. Hall
S. P. McGrath
- Springer Netherlands