, Volume 138, Issue 1-3, pp 343-355
Date: 25 May 2007

Uncertainty assessment of mapping mercury contaminated soils of a rapidly industrializing city in the Yangtze River Delta of China using sequential indicator co-simulation

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Accurate characterization of heavy-metal contaminated areas and quantification of the uncertainties inherent in spatial prediction are crucial for risk assessment, soil remediation, and effective management recommendations. Topsoil samples (0–15 cm) (n = 547) were collected from the Zhangjiagang suburbs of China. The sequential indicator co-simulation (SIcS) method was applied for incorporating the soft data derived from soil organic matter (SOM) to simulate Hg concentrations, map Hg contaminated areas, and evaluate the associated uncertainties. High variability of Hg concentrations was observed in the study area. Total Hg concentrations varied from 0.004 to 1.510 mg kg−1 and the coefficient of variation (CV) accounts for 70%. Distribution patterns of Hg were identified as higher Hg concentrations occurred mainly at the southern part of the study area and relatively lower concentrations were found in north. The Hg contaminated areas, identified using the Chinese Environmental Quality Standard for Soils critical values through SIcS, were limited and distributed in the south where the SOM concentration is high, soil pH is low, and paddy soils are the dominant soil types. The spatial correlations between Hg and SOM can be preserved by co-simulation and the realizations generated by SIcS represent the possible spatial patterns of Hg concentrations without a smoothing effect. Once the Hg concentration critical limit is given, SIcS can be used to map Hg contaminated areas and quantitatively assess the uncertainties inherent in the spatial prediction by setting a given critical probability and calculating the joint probability of the obtained areas.