Soil texture as a key driver of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) distribution in forest topsoils

Sci Rep. 2021 Jul 19;11(1):14708. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-94299-x.


Due to the dynamic development of civilization and the increasing demand for energy, pollution by harmful chemicals, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) compounds, is a serious threat to forest soils. The aim of the study was to determine the role of texture in the distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and trace elements in forest soils. The areas with different texture ranging from sand through sandy loam to silt loam were selected for the study. The study was carried out in the Chrzanów Forest District in southern Poland (50° 7' 18 N; 19° 31' 29 E), which in one of the most intensive industrial emission zones in Europe. The soil samples for properties determination were collected from locations distributed on a regular grid 100 × 100 m (20 points). The samples were collected from the humus horizon (0-10 cm) after removing organic horizon. Basic chemical properties, heavy metal content, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) content and magnetic susceptibility values were determined in soil samples. Additionally, enzymatic activity and microbiological biomass was determined in the samples. Our study confirmed the importance of texture in PAHs distribution. A strong correlation between PAHs content and silt content in the soils studied was noted. The regression tree analysis confirmed the importance of the silt content, followed by soil organic carbon in PAHs distribution. Organic carbon content and nitrogen content played a predominant role in controlling the microbial activity. In our study, we did not note a relationship between enzymatic activity, microbiological soil biomass and the amount of PAHs. This may be due to the effective sorption and immobilization of PAHs by particles of fine fractions, especially silt. Obtained results confirmed the usefulness of magnetic susceptibility in the assessment of heavy metals contamination of forest soils. We noted high correlation between magnetic susceptibility value and heavy metals content. Moreover, the relationship between magnetic susceptibility and soil texture of the topsoil was also observed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't