Concentration of trace metals in sediments and soils from protected lands in south Florida: background levels and risk evaluation

Environ Monit Assess. 2013 Aug;185(8):6311-32. doi: 10.1007/s10661-012-3027-9. Epub 2013 Jan 4.


A comprehensive environmental evaluation was completed on 20 metals: two reference metals (Fe, Al) and several minor trace metals (As, Ba, Co, Cr, Cu, Mn, Ni, Pb, V, and Zn) for surface soils and sediments collected from 50 sites in Everglades National Park (ENP), the coastal fringes of Biscayne National Park (BNP), and Big Cypress National Preserve. Samples were prepared by acid digestion (EPA3050) and analyzed by ICP/MS detection (EPA6020). Although no widespread contamination was detected across the two parks and one preserve, there were some specific areas where metal concentrations exceeded Florida's ecological thresholds, suggesting that some metals were of concern. A screening-level evaluation based on a proposed effect index grouped trace metals by their potential for causing negligible, possible, and probable effects on the biota. For example, Cu in BNP and Cr and Pb in ENP were considered of concern because their adverse effect likelihood to biota was assessed as probable; consequently, these trace metals were selected for further risk characterization. Also, stations were ranked based on a proposed overall contamination index that showed that: site BB10 in BNP and sites E3 and E5 in ENP had the highest scores. The first site was located in a marina in BNP, and the other two sites were along the eastern boundary of ENP adjacent to current or former agricultural lands. An assessment tool for south Florida protected lands was developed for evaluating impacts from on-going Everglades restoration projects and to assist State and Federal agencies with resource management. The tool consists of enrichment plots and statistically derived background concentrations based on soil/sediment data collected from the two national parks and one preserve. Finally, an equally accurate but much simplified approach is offered for developing enrichment plots for other environmental settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Florida
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Metals / analysis*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Soil / chemistry*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metals
  • Soil