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Response of magnetic properties to metal deposition on urban green in Nanjing, China


Environmental magnetism is a simple and fast method that can be used to assess heavy metal pollution in urban areas from the relationships between magnetic properties and heavy metal concentrations. Leaves of Osmanthus fragrans, one of the most widely distributed evergreen trees in Nanjing, China, were collected from four different district types, i.e., residential, educational, traffic, and industrial. The magnetic properties and heavy metal concentrations were measured both for unwashed (dust-loaded) and washed leaves. Scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy confirmed that unwashed leaves accumulated much dust due to atmospheric deposition. The value of magnetic properties and heavy metal concentrations in unwashed leaves was significantly higher than those of washed leaves, indicating that these characteristics were mainly derived from atmospheric particulate matter. Saturation isothermal remanent magnetization (SIRM) values obtained from unwashed and washed leaves ranged from 209.14 × 10−6 to 877.85 × 10−6 Am2 kg−1 and from 69.50 × 10−6 to 501.28 × 10−6 Am2 kg−1, respectively. High concentrations of heavy metals, such as Pb and Fe, the Tomlinson pollution load index, and the SIRM of unwashed leaves occurred in the traffic and industrial districts. A preliminary principal component analysis identified the source categories and suggested that industrial activities may be more related to the release of particulate matter rich in Fe. The heavy metal concentrations and pollution load index showed significant positive correlations with the low-frequency magnetic susceptibility and SIRM of unwashed leaves, indicating that these properties can be used to semi-quantify atmospheric heavy metal pollution. Our study suggests that it is possible to employ magnetic measurements as a useful tool for the monitoring and assessment of atmospheric heavy metal pollution.

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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 41501549), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (grant no. 2016YFC0208504), and Open fund by Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Atmospheric Environment Monitoring and Pollution Control (KHK 16001).

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Correspondence to Huiming Li or Xin Qian.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Leng, X., Wang, C., Li, H. et al. Response of magnetic properties to metal deposition on urban green in Nanjing, China. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 25315–25328 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-0133-9

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  • Heavy metals
  • Biomonitoring
  • Environmental magnetism
  • Spatial analysis