A strong enrichment of potentially toxic elements (PTEs) in Nord-Trøndelag (central Norway) forest soil

Sci Total Environ. 2015 Dec 1;536:130-141. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.07.032. Epub 2015 Jul 21.


Analysis of soil C and O horizon samples in a recent regional geochemical survey of Nord-Trøndelag, central Norway (752 sample sites covering 25,000 km2), identified a strong enrichment of several potentially toxic elements (PTEs) in the O horizon. Of 53 elements analysed in both materials, Cd concentrations are, on average, 17 times higher in the O horizon than in the C horizon and other PTEs such as Ag (11-fold), Hg (10-fold), Sb (8-fold), Pb (4-fold) and Sn (2-fold) are all strongly enriched relative to the C horizon. Geochemical maps of the survey area do not reflect an impact from local or distant anthropogenic contamination sources in the data for O horizon soil samples. The higher concentrations of PTEs in the O horizon are the result of the interaction of the underlying geology, the vegetation zone and type, and climatic effects. Based on the general accordance with existing data from earlier surveys in other parts of northern Europe, the presence of a location-independent, superordinate natural trend towards enrichment of these elements in the O horizon relative to the C horizon soil is indicated. The results imply that the O and C horizons of soils are different geochemical entities and that their respective compositions are controlled by different processes. Local mineral soil analyses (or published data for the chemical composition of the average continental crust) cannot be used to provide a geochemical background for surface soil. At the regional scale used here surface soil chemistry is still dominated by natural sources and processes.

Keywords: Enrichment factor; Soil horizons; Top/Bot ratio; Vegetation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Forests*
  • Hazardous Substances / analysis*
  • Norway
  • Soil / chemistry
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*


  • Hazardous Substances
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants