Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, Volume 216, Issue 1–4, pp 581–604 | Cite as

The Nature and Distribution of Metals in Soils of the Sydney Estuary Catchment, Australia

  • Gavin F. BirchEmail author
  • Matthew Vanderhayden
  • Marco Olmos


Total topsoil 50th percentile Cu, Pb and Zn concentrations (n = 491) in the Sydney estuary catchment were 23 μg g−1, 60 μg g−1 and 108 μg g−1, respectively. Nine percent, 6% and 25% of samples were above soil quality guidelines, respectively and mean enrichment was 14, 35 and 29 times above background, respectively. Soils in the south-eastern region of the catchment exhibited highest metal concentrations. The close relationship between soil metal and road network distributions and outcomes of vehicular emissions modelling, strongly suggested vehicular traffic was the primary source of metals to catchment soils. Catchment soil and road dust probably make an important contribution to contamination of the adjacent estuary. The concentration of soil metals followed the land use trend: industrial > urban > undeveloped areas. A high proportion (mean 45%, 62% and 42%, for Cu, Pb and Zn, respectively) of metals in the soils may be bioavailable.


Soil Sydney Metals Estuary Bioavailability 



We are grateful to Tom Savage and Marco Olmos for laboratory and GIS assistance. Drs Ana Vila-Concejo and Balwant Singh are thanked for advice and guidance, and we acknowledge Mark Young (NSW Department of the Environment and Climate Change) for providing soil landscape and geology data. We thank anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on the statistical representation of the data. This is publication number 0041 of Sydney Institute of Marine Science.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gavin F. Birch
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthew Vanderhayden
    • 1
  • Marco Olmos
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Geology Group, School of GeosciencesSydney UniversitySydneyAustralia

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