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Heavy metals and rare earth elements (REEs) in soil from the Nam Co Basin, Tibetan Plateau

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Environmental Geology


Twenty-eight soil samples collected from the Nam Co Basin, Tibetan Plateau, have been analyzed for heavy metals (Cd, Cr, Ni, Cu, Zn, Pb and Mn), arsenic (As) and rare earth elements (REEs). In addition, for establishing the basic physio-chemical characteristics of the soil, pH, total organic concentration, electrical conductivity, and effective cation exchange capacity were measured. The results indicate that soil in the Nam Co Basin is still at an early alkaline weathering stage (pH = 7.94). Mean concentrations of heavy metals and As decreased as follows: Mn > Cr > Zn > Pb > Ni > Cu > As > Cd. The values of Cd, Cr, As, Pb and REEs in soil from the Nam Co Basin are higher relative to averaged background values over China. The chondrite-normalized diagrams of REEs suggest high REE(ΣLa → Eu)—enrichment, HREE(ΣGd → Lu)—depletion and Eu—depletion. Vertical profiles indicate that both heavy metals (except As) and REEs primarily exist in the surface soil. However, heavy metals and REEs vary in the surface soil between the southern and the northern bank of Nam Co. These differences are controlled mainly by parent materials.

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This study is supported by the “Talent Project” and the Innovation Project (KZCX3-SW-339) of Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Natural Science Foundation of China (40401054), National Basic Research Program of China (2005CB422004). We thank Mr. Shaopeng Gao for his excellent work on measurements, Fei Zhang for help on charts, Susan Kaspari and Bjorn Grigholm for editing English.

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Correspondence to Shichang Kang.

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Li, C., Kang, S., Wang, X. et al. Heavy metals and rare earth elements (REEs) in soil from the Nam Co Basin, Tibetan Plateau. Environ Geol 53, 1433–1440 (2008).

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