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Temperate Urban Streams as Summer-Critical Ecosystems Regarding Metal Contamination


Urbanization leads to changes in the natural state of the environment, including changes in natural aquatic habitats within urbanized zones. In the present study, the impact of urbanization on the water quality of urban streams, which are important sources of drinking water and recreational areas for the urban population, was investigated along two streams in the Croatian capital Zagreb. The upper reaches of the two urban streams are largely pristine (located within a nature park), whereas their downstream reaches are physically altered and impacted by anthropogenic (residential, municipal, industrial, agricultural) activities. Several physico-chemical parameters were measured in the streams using standardized methods, while concentrations of 30 dissolved metals/metalloids in the water were measured using a high resolution inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer. Although the water quality of the streams studied was rather good, the influence of urbanization was evident. Different contamination levels were observed along the two streams, depending on the specific anthropogenic activities and contamination increase in the stream reaches closer to the city centre. Furthermore, the summer season of low water levels and water discharges proved to be the most critical time, with significant increases in many metals/metalloids in the water. Since stream quality evidently reflects urbanization, continuous monitoring of urban streams is recommended, especially during the warmer seasons. The results of this study could help to understand the effects of the “urban stream syndrome” along urban streams and its seasonal characteristics.

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Data Availability

The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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This study was conducted as part of the project “Urban stream ecology in Zagreb, Croatia: a pilot project”, funded by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (CASA). The financial support of the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia for institutional support of the Laboratory for Biological Effects of Metals is also acknowledged. The authors also thank the Meteorological and Hydrological Service of the Republic of Croatia for the valuable contribution to the discussion by providing information on stream water levels and water discharges and Ivan Tekić for designing the map of the study area.


This study was carried out within the project “Urban stream ecology in Zagreb, Croatia: a pilot project”, financed by Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (CASA). The financial support of the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia for institutional funding of the Laboratory for Biological Effects of Metals is also acknowledged.

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Conceptualization: Mirela Sertić Perić. Methodology: Mirela Sertić Perić, Zrinka Dragun, Vlatka Filipović Marijić. Formal analysis and (field/laboratory) investigation: Mirela Sertić Perić, Marta Mikulčić, Tvrtko Dražina, Zrinka Dragun, Renata Matoničkin Kepčija. Writing — original draft preparation: Zrinka Dragun, Mirela Sertić Perić. Writing — review and editing: Renata Matoničkin Kepčija, Marta Mikulčić, Vlatka Filipović Marijić, Tvrtko Dražina. Funding acquisition: Mirela Sertić Perić.

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Correspondence to Mirela Sertić Perić.

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Dragun, Z., Perić, M.S., Mikulčić, M. et al. Temperate Urban Streams as Summer-Critical Ecosystems Regarding Metal Contamination. Water Air Soil Pollut 233, 314 (2022).

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  • Agriculture
  • Metals/metalloids
  • Nutrients
  • Organic contamination
  • Urban streams
  • Water