Distribution of trace and major elements in subarctic ecosystem soils: Sources and influence of vegetation

Sci Total Environ. 2019 Sep 10;682:650-662. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.05.178. Epub 2019 May 17.


Artic and subarctic environments are particularly sensitive to climate change with a faster warming compared to other latitudes. Vegetation is changing but its role on the biogeochemical cycling is poorly understood. In this study, we evaluated the distribution of trace elements in subarctic soils from different land covers at Abisko, northern Sweden: grassland, moor, broad-leaved forest, and peat bog. Using various multivariate analysis approaches, results indicated a spatial heterogeneity with a strong influence of soil horizon classes considered: lithogenic elements (e.g., Al, Cr, Ti) were accumulated in mineral horizon classes and surface process-influenced elements (e.g., Cd, Cu, Se) in organic horizon classes. Atmospheric influences included contamination by both local mines (e.g., Cu, Fe, Ni) and regional or long-range atmospheric transport (e.g., Cd, Pb, Zn). A non-negative matrix factorization was used to estimate, for each element, the contribution of various sources identified. For the first time, a comparison between geochemical and ecological data was performed to evaluate the influence of vegetation on element distribution. Apart from soil pH that could control dynamics of As, Cu, and Se, two vegetation classes were reported to be correlated to geochemical factors: forbs and shrubs/dwarf shrubs probably due to their annual vs. perennial activities, respectively. Since these are considered as the main vegetation classes that quickly evolve with climate change, we expect to see modifications in trace element biogeochemical cycling in the future.

Keywords: Ecosystem; Soil; Sources; Subarctic; Trace elements; Vegetation.

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Plants
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Sweden
  • Trace Elements / analysis*


  • Soil Pollutants
  • Trace Elements