Impact of natural and man-made factors on migration of heavy metals in the Ardon River basin (North Ossetia)
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The main goal of the study was to evaluate biogeochemical effects of particular factors changing the structure of landscapes due to enhanced mass migration and erosion of the outcropping rocks by studying transformation of chemical composition of the draining waters and flood plain soils; chemical composition of the solid and liquid phases of the Ardon River waters; and by assessing ecological consequences and risk of contamination of the area by heavy metals.
Materials and methods
Water, soil, and biota species (plants, algae, and amphibian) were sampled at the plots located up- and downstream the mining and industrial areas of North Ossetia (the Ardon River basin) before and after the mudflow that took place in 2002. The air-dried samples were decomposed in a mixture of mineral acids. Heavy metals were determined by means of AAS with the help of AAS-80 (Hitachi) or AAS-2A (KORTEC) using standard reference materials of hair (CRM 397), plant mixture (SBMT-02), and soil (SRM 2709). Hydrochemical and biochemical analyses were performed with the help of the known methods (Kraynov and Shvets 1992; Burtis et al. 2006).
Results and discussion
The study showed that activity of the Misur Mining Combine and its Ardon-Khost tailings caused a significant local increase of Pb, Cd, Cu, and Zn content in soils, water, and biotic components as compared to the background values. The mudflow of 2002 changed the structure of landscapes and was followed by a considerable transformation of chemical composition of the downstream river waters and floodplain soils, and by invasion of particular hydrophyte species. Algae and amphibian adapted to the changed conditions and indicated both natural and anthropogenic transformation of the environment. A distinct relation between the particle size of the suspended matter in the Ardon River waters and water salinity was discovered.
Therefore, the Unal basin presents a vivid example of modern natural and anthropogenic evolution of Pb-Zn biogeochemical province under conditions of the extreme and dynamic geochemical environment leading to enhanced risks of ecological damage. Algae species demonstrated high adaptive and indicative capacity in case of both the fast natural and man-made impact.
KeywordsBiogeochemical indicators Biogeochemical provinces Ecological risks Heavy metals Technogenic contamination
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