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Urban soil geochemistry in Athens, Greece: The importance of local geology in controlling the distribution of potentially harmful trace elements

Argyraki, Ariadne, Kelepertzis, Efstratios
The Science of the total environment 2014 v.482-483 pp. 366-377
anthropogenic activities, antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cities, cobalt, copper, geochemistry, geographic information systems, industry, land use, landscapes, lead, multivariate analysis, nickel, population density, soil chemistry, soil heterogeneity, soil sampling, soil surveys, spatial variation, tin, traffic, urban areas, urban soils, urbanization, zinc, Greece
Understanding urban soil geochemistry is a challenging task because of the complicated layering of the urban landscape and the profound impact of large cities on the chemical dispersion of harmful trace elements. A systematic geochemical soil survey was performed across Greater Athens and Piraeus, Greece. Surface soil samples (0–10cm) were collected from 238 sampling sites on a regular 1×1km grid and were digested by a HNO3–HCl–HClO4–HF mixture. A combination of multivariate statistics and Geographical Information System approaches was applied for discriminating natural from anthropogenic sources using 4 major elements, 9 trace metals, and 2 metalloids. Based on these analyses the lack of heavy industry in Athens was demonstrated by the influence of geology on the local soil chemistry with this accounting for 49% of the variability in the major elements, as well as Cr, Ni, Co, and possibly As (median values of 102, 141, 16 and 24mgkg−1 respectively). The contribution to soil chemistry of classical urban contaminants including Pb, Cu, Zn, Sn, Sb, and Cd (medians of 45, 39, 98, 3.6, 1.7 and 0.3mgkg−1 respectively) was also observed; significant correlations were identified between concentrations and urbanization indicators, including vehicular traffic, urban land use, population density, and timing of urbanization. Analysis of soil heterogeneity and spatial variability of soil composition in the Greater Athens and Piraeus area provided a representation of the extent of anthropogenic modifications on natural element loadings. The concentrations of Ni, Cr, and As were relatively high compared to those in other cities around the world, and further investigation should characterize and evaluate their geochemical reactivity.