Assessment of trace elements in urban topsoils of Rawalpindi-Pakistan: a principal component analysis approach

  • Muhammad Tahir Shehzad
  • Ghulam Murtaza
  • Muhammad Shafeeque
  • Muhammad Sabir
  • Haq Nawaz
  • Muhammad Jamal Khan


Assessment of trace elements is inevitable to reduce stress on environment due to urbanization and industrialization. Rawalpindi, the fourth largest city of Pakistan, rapidly moving towards industrialization and has a large number of automobiles. In the present study, the urban area of Rawalpindi was divided into five parts: Gawal Mandi, Pir Wadhai, Soan Adda, Chah Sultan, and Central Ordinance Depot (COD), to determine distribution of trace elements. Soil samples were collected from 5 to 20 cm depth. After drying and sieving, samples were digested using di-acid (HNO3 and HClO4 at 2:1). Concentrations of heavy metals were determined using atomic absorption spectrophotometer (AAS). Principal component analysis (PCA) was performed to reduce multidimensional space of variables and samples. Observed mean concentrations of Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Mn, Ni, Pb, and Zn were 164, 33.4, 295, 336, 634, 236, 1572, and 546 mg kg−1, respectively. Mean concentrations of all the heavy metals in urban area soil were higher than the WHO permissible limits. Correlation coefficient analysis showed positive correlation among Cd, Co, Cu, Ni, and Pb, whereas no obvious correlation for Cr and Mn was found with any other heavy metal. Zn was positively correlated with Co, Ni, and Mn, whereas negative correlation was found with Cr. Results showed that Pir Wadhai and COD were the most and least contaminated parts of the city, respectively, and this is attributed to the presence and absence of heavy traffic loads and industrial effluents.

Graphical abstract


Heavy metal Principal component analysis Di-acid digestion Correlation coefficient analysis 



We would like to thank the Institute of Soil and Environmental Sciences, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan, for providing technical support and Department of Environmental Sciences, Pir Mehar Ali Shah-Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, for providing us the research facilities. We wish to thank the people of study area for their cooperation at the time of sampling.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Global Center for Environmental RemediationThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  2. 2.Institute of Soil and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Agriculture FaisalabadFaisalabadPakistan
  3. 3.Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural SciencesThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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