Heavy metal stocks and concentrations in forest soils

Utermann, Jens; Aydin, Cihan-T.; Bischoff, Norbert; Böttcher, Jürgen; Eickenscheidt, Nadine GND; Gehrmann, Joachim; König, Nils GND; Scheler, Birte; Stange, Florian GND; Wellbrock, Nicole GND

The heavy metal concentrations of forest soils in Germany are the result of both the geogenic basic concentration in the parent rock and the atmospheric inputs that can overprint this basic geogenic concentration especially in the topsoil layers. Evidence of significant atmospheric overprinting can be found for Pb, Cd and Hg, while As and Cu are less distinctly overprinted. Concentrations of the elements Ni, Cr and Zn are primarily determined by the basic geogenic concentration. The highest heavy metal concentrations are found on clay, carbonate rocks and basic and intermediate magmatic and metamorphic rocks, whereas relatively lower concentrations are documented on terrace and gravel sediments, sand and thick sandy surface layers as well as till and boulder clay. Especially for elements with a high affinity for binding to organic substances such as Pb, Cu, Cr, Ni and Hg, heavy metal concentrations in the organic layer are clearly differentiated by humus horizon with increasing concentrations from the L- through Of- to the Oh-horizons. In contrast, Cd and Zn concentrations are not differentiated by horizon. Over the period between the NFSI I and NFSI II, atmospheric inputs of heavy metals decreased, which, together with relocation/incorporation of the metals into the upper increments of the mineral soil, has resulted in decreased concentrations in the organic layer. Forest liming, which causes a shift of the humus from the organic layer to the upper mineral soil, has also tended to enhance this effect. Using the data from North Rhine-Westphalia by way of example, an analysis of the change in heavy metal stocks in the organic layer and the first two depth layers of the mineral soil was carried out; the results indicated that while heavy metal stocks shift from the organic layer to the mineral topsoil, the total stock of heavy metals remains largely unchanged. Special attention should be paid to Hg, as this element is the only one that has increased in soil, due to various elevated inputs through deposition. Precautionary values based on the BBodSchV were used to assess the heavy metal concentrations in the mineral soil. For most heavy metals, concentrations in the majority of forest soils in Germany appear to be below the precautionary value; thus, in terms of heavy metal burden, forest soils can be said to be in relatively good condition in most areas. Only the elements As and Pb exceed the precautionary values in many regions, with 11.2% for As and 22.1% for Pb significantly exceeding the precautionary values. References

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Utermann, Jens / Aydin, Cihan-T. / Bischoff, Norbert / et al: Heavy metal stocks and concentrations in forest soils. 2019.

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