Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 35, pp 35257–35265 | Cite as

Effects of road proximity on heavy metal concentrations in soils and common roadside plants in Southern California

  • Noreen Khalid
  • Mumtaz Hussain
  • Hillary S. YoungEmail author
  • Benjamin Boyce
  • Muhammad Aqeel
  • Ali Noman
Research Article


Concerns about motor vehicle emissions on human health are typically focused on aerial pollution and are regulated via controls on tailpipe emissions. However, vehicles also contribute heavy metal emissions through non-tailpipe pathways (e.g., brake wear, tire particulates). The metal pollutants produced via both tailpipe and non-tailpipe pathways pose threats to both human and ecosystem health long after they have settled from the atmosphere largely via contamination of soils and plants. In this study, we examined the effect of vehicular pollution on soils and plants in five paired sites in Gaviota, CA. In each site, we examined the effect of proximity to road on heavy metal concentrations (cadmium, nickel, lead, and zinc) in four of the most common roadside plant species—Melilotus indicus, Herschfeldia incana, Avena sativa, and Artemisia californica—as well as on soil metal concentrations. Then, to look at potential effects of road proximity and associated metal pollution on plants, we also examined the carbon and nitrogen ratios of all the plant samples. We found strong and significant effects of proximity to road on concentrations of all heavy metals in plants; plants in close proximity to roads had metal concentrations between 8 and 11 times higher than plants farther from roads. Plant C:N ratios also varied strongly among site types and were always higher in close proximity to roads as compared to farther off roads, potentially indicating broader effects of road proximity to plant ecology and leaf quality for consumers in the region.


Roads Heavy metals Bioaccumulation Toxicity Plants Soils 



We thank Claudia Tyler, Katherine Nigro, and Johnson Lin for assistance with field collection and laboratory analysis of samples. Also, the use of ICP-AES by the Materials Research Laboratory at UCSB is gratefully acknowledged. We are thankful to the Higher Education Commission Pakistan for their support of this research project under IRSIP program.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Noreen Khalid
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mumtaz Hussain
    • 3
  • Hillary S. Young
    • 1
    Email author
  • Benjamin Boyce
    • 1
  • Muhammad Aqeel
    • 4
  • Ali Noman
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine BiologyUniversity of California Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Department of BotanyGovernment College Women UniversitySialkotPakistan
  3. 3.Department of BotanyUniversity of AgricultureFaisalabadPakistan
  4. 4.State Key Laboratory of Grassland and Agro-Ecosystems, School of Life ScienceLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  5. 5.Department of BotanyGovernment College UniversityFaisalabadPakistan

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