Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 17, pp 17625–17634 | Cite as

Metal contamination status of the soil-plant system and effects on the soil microbial community near a rare metal recycling smelter

  • Zhu Li
  • Tingting Ma
  • Cheng Yuan
  • Jinyu Hou
  • Qingling Wang
  • Longhua WuEmail author
  • Peter Christie
  • Yongming Luo
Research Article


Four heavy metals (Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn), two metalloids (As and Sb) and two rare metals (In and Tl) were selected as target elements to ascertain their concentrations and accumulation in the soil-plant system and their effects on the structure of the soil microbial community in a typical area of rare metal smelting in south China. Twenty-seven soil samples 100, 500, 1000, 1500 and 3000 m from the smelter and 42 vegetable samples were collected to determine the concentrations of the target elements. Changes in soil micro-organisms were investigated using the Biolog test and 454 pyrosequencing. The concentrations of the eight target elements (especially As and Cd) were especially high in the topsoil 100 m from the smelter and decreased markedly with increasing distance from the smelter and with increasing soil depth. Cadmium bio-concentration factors in the vegetables were the highest followed by Tl, Cu, Zn, In, Sb, Pb, and then As. The concentrations of As, Cd and Pb in vegetables were 86.7, 100 and 80.0 %, respectively, over the permissible limits and possible contamination by Tl may also be of concern. Changes in soil microbial counts and average well colour development were also significantly different at different sampling distances from the smelter. The degree of tolerance to heavy metals appears to be fungi > bacteria > actinomycetes. The 454 pyrosequencing indicates that long-term metal contamination from the smelting activities has resulted in shifts in the composition of the soil bacterial community.


Bacterial community BCF Rare metals Soil contamination South China 



This research was jointly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41325003, 41271326 and 41401581), the National High Technology Research and Development Program of China (2012AA06A204) and the Open Fund of the Key (cultivating) Topics of Chemical Engineering and Technology, Hubei University of Arts and Science (2015ChemEng04).

Supplementary material

11356_2016_6958_MOESM1_ESM.docx (36 kb)
ESM. 1 (DOCX 36 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhu Li
    • 1
  • Tingting Ma
    • 2
  • Cheng Yuan
    • 1
  • Jinyu Hou
    • 1
  • Qingling Wang
    • 1
  • Longhua Wu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter Christie
    • 1
  • Yongming Luo
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Soil Environment and Pollution Remediation, Institute of Soil ScienceChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  2. 2.Institute of HanjiangHubei University of Arts and ScienceXiangyangChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Coastal Zone Environmental Processes, Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesYantaiChina

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