The fate of airborne metal pollutants in soils is still relatively unknown. We studied the incorporation of such airborne metal pollution in two soils under long-term permanent pasture (PP) and conventional arable land (CA). Both soils were located at an almost equal distance from a former zinc smelter complex and developed under comparable pedogenetic conditions. Profiles of total concentrations of Zn, chosen as a mobile, and Pb as a little- or non-mobile element, were examined and compared with macro- and micromorphological soil characteristics (soil colour, biological activity). The two soils showed different profiles of total Zn and Pb concentrations, with a marked decrease of concentrations of both elements under the plough layer in CA, whereas the decrease was more progressive in PP. However, the stocks of Zn and Pb for the 1-m soil profiles of CA and PP were comparable. Correlation of Zn and Pb concentration at different depths with total Fe contents and comparison with estimated data for the local geochemical background (LGCB), suggests transport of Zn from the surface to depth in CA and PP, and Pb movement in PP. In CA, 53% of Zn and 92.5% of Pb stocks derived from airborne metal pollution were located at depths <26 cm. In PP, only 40% of Zn and 82% of Pb, derived from airborne pollution, were found in the A11 and A12 horizons (<26 cm), the remaining 18% of the Pb stock being incorporated until 50 cm depth; one-third of total Zn stock ascribed to airborne pollution was found at depths > 50 cm. Studies of the composition of gravitational water collected in soils from the same study area suggest two mechanisms for metal movement. First, mobile metal ions (Zn2+) move in the soil solution and are intercepted by iron-clay complexes in deeper soil horizons. Second, observed only in PP, simultaneous movement of Zn and Pb is ascribed to bioturbation by earthworms.
- contaminated soils