Distribution of heavy metals in agricultural soils near a petrochemical complex in Guangzhou, China

  • Junhui Li
  • Ying Lu
  • Wei Yin
  • Haihua Gan
  • Chao Zhang
  • Xianglian Deng
  • Jin Lian


The aim of the study was to investigate influence of an industrialized environment on the accumulation of heavy metals in agricultural soils. Seventy soil samples collected from surface layers (0–20 cm) and horizons of five selected pedons in the vicinity area of petrochemical complex in Guangzhou, China were analyzed for Zn, Cu, Pb, Cd, Hg and As concentrations, the horizontal and vertical variation of these metals were studied and geographic information system (GIS)-based mapping techniques were applied to generate spatial distribution maps. The mean concentrations of these heavy metals in the topsoils did not exceed the maximum allowable concentrations in agricultural soil of China with the exception of Hg. Significant differences between land-use types showed that Cu, Pb, Cd, Hg and As concentrations in topsoils were strongly influenced by agricultural practices and soil management. Within a radius of 1,300 m there were no marked decreasing trends for these element concentrations (except for Zn) with the increase of distance from the complex boundary, which reflected little influence of petroleum air emission on soil heavy metal accumulation. Concentrations of Zn, Cu, Pb, Cd, Hg and As in the five pedons, particularly in cultivated vegetable field and orchard, decreased with soil depth, indicating these elements mainly originated from anthropogenic sources. GIS mapping was a useful tool for evaluating spatial variability of heavy metals in the affected soil. The spatial distribution maps allowed the identification of hot-spot areas with high metal concentration. Effective measures should be taken to avoid or minimize heavy metal further contamination of soils and to remediate the contaminated areas in order to prevent pollutants affecting human health through agricultural products.


Agricultural soils Heavy metals Spatial distribution Petrochemical complex Guangzhou 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Junhui Li
    • 1
  • Ying Lu
    • 2
  • Wei Yin
    • 1
  • Haihua Gan
    • 1
  • Chao Zhang
    • 1
  • Xianglian Deng
    • 3
  • Jin Lian
    • 3
  1. 1.College of Natural Resources and EnvironmentSouth China Agricultural UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Soil Science, College of Natural Resources and EnvironmentSouth China Agricultural UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Guangzhou Agricultural Standard and Supervisory CenterGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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