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# Spatial Distribution of Heavy Metals and the Environmental Quality of Soil in the Northern Plateau of Spain by Geostatistical Methods

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### Abstract

The environmental quality of soil in the central part of the Northern Plateau of Spain has been analyzed by studying the heavy metal content of 166 samples belonging to the horizons A, B and C of 89 soil profiles. The analysis to assess the environmental risk of heavy metals in the soil was carried out by means of the spatial distribution of nine heavy metals and the use of several pollution indices. The results showed that the concentration values of heavy metals ( $x ¯$ ± S) in the superficial soil horizons were the following: With a total of 6.71 ± 3.51 mg·kg −1, the contents of Cd is 0.08 ± 0.06 mg·kg −1, Co is 6.49 ± 3.21 mg·kg −1, Cu is 17.19 ± 10.69 mg·kg −1, Cr is 18.68 ± 12.28 mg·kg −1, Hg is 0.083 ± 0.063 mg·kg −1, Ni is 12.05 ± 6.76 mg·kg −1, Pb is 14.10 ± 11.32 mg·kg −1 and Zn is 35.31 ± 14.63 mg·kg −1. These nine metals exceed the values of the natural geological background level of Tertiary period sediments and rocks that form part of the Northern Plateau in Spain. Nemerow and Potential Ecological Risk indices were calculated, with the “improved” Nemerow index allowing pollution within the soil superficial horizons to be determined. The data obtained indicated that the majority of the soil (54.61%) showed low to moderate contamination, 22.31% showed moderate contamination and 21.54% of the samples were not contaminated. If we consider the Potential of Ecological Risk Index (RI), the largest percentage of soil samples showed low (70.79%) to moderate (25.38%) ecological risk of potential contamination, where the rest of the soil presented a considerable risk of contamination. The nine trace elements were divided into three principal components: PC 1 (Cu, Cr, Ni, Co and Zn), PC 2 (As and Hg) and PC 3 (Cd). All metals accumulated in the soil came from parent rock, agricultural practices and the run-off of residual waters towards rivers and streams caused by industrial development and an increase in population density. Finally, cartography of the spatial distribution of the heavy metal contents in the soil of the Northern Plateau of Spain was generated using Kriging interpolation methods. Furthermore, the total heavy metal contents in three soil orders present in the area, namely Entisols, Inceptisols, and Alfisols, were analyzed. Other soil parameters, such as the organic matter content, pH, clay content and cation exchange capacity, was measured to determine their influence on and correlation with the heavy metal contents.

### Most cited references61

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### Heavy metals, occurrence and toxicity for plants: a review

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### An inventory of heavy metals inputs to agricultural soils in England and Wales.

(2003)
An inventory of heavy metal inputs (Zn, Cu, Ni, Pb, Cd, Cr, As and Hg) to agricultural soils in England and Wales in 2000 is presented, accounting for major sources including atmospheric deposition, sewage sludge, livestock manures, inorganic fertilisers and lime, agrochemicals, irrigation water, industrial by-product 'wastes' and composts. Across the whole agricultural land area, atmospheric deposition was the main source of most metals, ranging from 25 to 85% of total inputs. Livestock manures and sewage sludge were also important sources, responsible for an estimated 37-40 and 8-17% of total Zn and Cu inputs, respectively. However, at the individual field scale sewage sludge, livestock manures and industrial wastes could be the major source of many metals where these materials are applied. This work will assist in developing strategies for reducing heavy metal inputs to agricultural land and effectively targeting policies to protect soils from long-term heavy metal accumulation.
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### Author and article information

###### Contributors
Role: Academic Editor
Role: Academic Editor
###### Journal
Int J Environ Res Public Health
Int J Environ Res Public Health
ijerph
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
MDPI
1661-7827
1660-4601
26 May 2017
June 2017
: 14
: 6
ijerph-14-00568
10.3390/ijerph14060568
5486254
28587142
© 2017 by the authors.

Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

###### Categories
Article

Public health