Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 69, Issue 5, pp 1537–1547 | Cite as

Distribution and speciation of heavy metals in surface sediments from the Yangtze estuary and coastal areas

  • Xue Li
  • Ying WangEmail author
  • Baohua Li
  • Chenghong Feng
  • Yaxin Chen
  • Zhenyao Shen
Original Article


The concentrations and speciation of heavy metals (As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Ni, Pb and Zn) in the sediments of the nearshore area, river channel and coastal zones of the Yangtze estuary, China, were systematically investigated in this study. The concentrations of all heavy metals except Ni in the sediments of the nearshore area were higher than those of the river channel and coastal zones. In the nearshore area, the concentrations of most heavy metals except Hg in the sediments of the southern branch were higher than those of the northern branch because of the import of pollutants from the urban and industrial activities around. When compared with the threshold effect level (TEL) and geochemical background levels, Cr, Ni and As accumulated and posed potential adverse biological effects. The speciation analysis suggested that Cd, Pb and Zn in the sediments of the three zones showed higher bioavailability than the other heavy metals, and thus posed ecological risk. Significant correlations were observed among Cr, Cu, Ni and Zn (r > 0.77) in the nearshore area, Ni, Cu, Zn and Pb (r > 0.85) in the river channel and Ni, Cu, Cr, Pb and Zn (r > 0.75) in the coastal zone. Principal component analysis (PCA) indicated that the discharge of unban and industrial sewage, shipping pollution and the properties of the sediments (contents of Fe, Mn, Al, TOC, clay and silt) dominated the distribution of heavy metal in the nearshore area, river channel and coastal zones of the Yangtze estuary.


Estuary Sediments Heavy metals Ecological risk Speciation Contamination 



This work was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Project, Grant No. 2010CB429003), National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 21177013), the fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities and Special Fund of State Key Laboratory of Water Environment Simulation (Grant No. 11K04ESPCN).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xue Li
    • 1
  • Ying Wang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Baohua Li
    • 2
  • Chenghong Feng
    • 1
  • Yaxin Chen
    • 2
  • Zhenyao Shen
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.The Key Laboratory of Water and Sediment Sciences, Ministry of Education, School of EnvironmentBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Water Environment Simulation, School of EnvironmentBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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