Multielement geochemistry identifies the spatial pattern of soil and sediment contamination in an urban parkland, Western Australia

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Urban environments are dynamic and highly heterogeneous, and multiple additions of potential contaminants are likely on timescales which are short relative to natural processes. The likely sources and location of soil or sediment contamination in urban environment should therefore be detectable using multielement geochemical composition combined with rigorously applied multivariate statistical techniques. Soil, wetland sediment, and street dust was sampled along intersecting transects in Robertson Park in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. Samples were analysed for near-total concentrations of multiple elements (including Cd, Ce, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Gd, La, Mn, Nd, Ni, Pb, Y, and Zn), as well as pH, and electrical conductivity. Samples at some locations within Robertson Park had high concentrations of potentially toxic elements (Pb above Health Investigation Limits; As, Ba, Cu, Mn, Ni, Pb, V, and Zn above Ecological Investigation Limits). However, these concentrations carry low risk due to the main land use as recreational open space, the low proportion of samples exceeding guideline values, and a tendency for the highest concentrations to be located within the less accessible wetland basin. The different spatial distributions of different groups of contaminants was consistent with different inputs of contaminants related to changes in land use and technology over the history of the site. Multivariate statistical analyses reinforced the spatial information, with principal component analysis identifying geochemical associations of elements which were also spatially related. A multivariate linear discriminant model was able to discriminate samples into a-priori types, and could predict sample type with 84% accuracy based on multielement composition. The findings suggest substantial advantages of characterising a site using multielement and multivariate analyses, an approach which could benefit investigations of other sites of concern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1106-1120
Number of pages15
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2018


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